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North Fayette’s Latitude 40 in debt for millions

PTRLATITUDE3101213
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
The Latitude 40 entertainment complex in North Fayette is reportedly undergoing financial difficulties, Friday, October 11, 2013.

A Bridgeville construction company has joined about a dozen others to pursue millions of dollars they’re owed for Latitude 40, a North Fayette entertainment complex that opened a year ago, court filings show.

General contractor John Deklewa and Sons Inc. is facing the biggest loss — about $8.5 million unpaid on a $10.5 million total bill — after readying the project for its November 2012 opening, according to liens filed by contractors in Allegheny County court.

The family-owned company, in business since 1918, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. But industry observers said the shortfall could be significant for Deklewa.

“There’s not too many contractors in this country that can finance $8 million from their own pot, from their own bank account,” said Philip Barnard, a construction claims consultant and senior vice president at Interface Consulting International in Houston. “That’s a big amount to be out.”

Headed by third-generation executives David J. Deklewa and John E. Deklewa, the firm on Washington Pike is known for building schools, health care facilities and retail projects. It took a lead last year in building Latitude 40, a 65,000-square-foot complex on Quinn Drive that features a restaurant, a movie theater, bowling lanes and other attractions.

Jacksonville-based Latitude Global owns and operates the business, part of a growing chain that runs other locations in Jacksonville and Indianapolis. Founder and CEO Brent W. Brown acknowledged his group fell behind on payments for contractors and subcontractors, though he would not confirm dollar amounts or the number of parties owed money. He said a lender that Latitude had lined up for the North Fayette project went out of business.

Brown would not identify the lender but said he is securing funds to “take care of any obligations that are up there in Pittsburgh.” He expects the creditors to be paid by year’s end, and Latitude still aims to open three new venues a year, he said.

“We’ve created a lot of jobs out there,” said Brown, a Montour High School graduate who counted about 170 workers at Latitude 40. “We’ve filled empty space. I think we’ve done a great job of bringing business and traffic to that area.”

The project wasn’t so rosy for Harris Masonry Inc., one of the companies seeking payment for their work on the complex. It was owed $52,327 as of April 23, according to a lien claim.

Churchill-based attorney David Raves said the company is still missing the money.

“Certainly there are people with much larger claims, but money is money,” said Raves, who represents Harris Masonry. “My understanding is that (Latitude) has been making promises that have gone unfulfilled for quite some time.”

Some other creditors and subcontractors have reported unpaid bills upwards of $500,000, though it wasn’t immediately clear Friday how much of their claims duplicated the filing made by Deklewa. A general contractor typically is responsible for compensating subcontractors on a major construction project.

Many of the claims also identify Pittsburgh-based Emfaze Associates along with Latitude as a target. Representatives with Emfaze, whom Brown identified as a landlord, did not respond to questions Friday. Brown said his company made the improvements to the North Fayette property to open the new venue.

“We’re working through it,” he said. “I’ve not only met with the majority of the larger contractors face-to-face multiple times, but I’ve gotten them as much information as I can on the progression of the (new) loan.”

Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or [email protected].

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