PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Pittsburgh-area civic groups joined together Monday to avert the threatened sale of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

The agreement came as a trial was getting underway over the future of the debt-strapped center in Pittsburgh. Dollar Bank had been pushing for a sheriff’s sale after the center defaulted on a nearly $8 million mortgage.

The center opened in 2009 in honor of the late, black Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Pittsburgh native. However, it never covered its construction costs and low attendance left the downtown center further mired in debt.

“I am very pleased that through collaboration among the city, Allegheny County, our foundation community and Dollar Bank, we reached a settlement today that preserves the future of the August Wilson Center as a place to celebrate African-American culture,” Mayor William Peduto said, calling the center a “vitally important asset.”

Under the deal, the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority and several area foundations combined to bid more than $8 million for the property.

A New York developer, 980 Liberty Partners, had bid $9.5 million for a 10-story hotel project that would share space and revenue-generating efforts with the center.

But government officials said that would violate deed covenants requiring the building be used exclusively as a black cultural center, a position also favored by a group of charitable foundations and the city’s black leadership.

The trial had been set to start before Common Pleas Judge Lawrence O’Toole.