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Turning point?: Things are looking up for the city's former Hilton

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It's not the first time that Pittsburgh's Point has been a battleground and, given the renewed interest in operating a hotel there, this skirmish could turn out well for Downtown -- bankruptcy court willing.

Kiran C. Patel, a cardiologist from Tampa, Fla., with a reported net worth of more than $200 million, has made a bid to buy the former Hilton, a sign that the site is still considered valuable. Dr. Patel, whose attorney says the cardiologist and his family operate more than 20 hotels, would take over as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, owning 89 percent of the business to start and the remaining 11 percent in three years.

The more than 700-room facility is the city's largest and arguably most prominent hotel, given its location at the base of the Fort Pitt Bridge and the gateway to the Golden Triangle. Yet it's been hobbled in recent years by an owner with financial problems.

Shubh Hotels Pittsburgh LLC filed for bankruptcy this month after BlackRock Financial Management, its lender, sought to foreclose on the property after claiming the owner defaulted on its $49.6 million mortgage. BlackRock said the default was triggered by Hilton Hotels & Resorts' recent termination of the property's franchise license. All of that followed a period when Shubh was not paying its bills, part of which stalled a renovation project at the building and created a public eyesore.

Last week Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, as part of the Patel offer, expressed an interest in replacing the Hilton name -- further confirmation of the property's premier status. Wyndham Grand, the chain's top brand, would be the potential new nameplate under the proposal, with an upgrade to four-diamond status. Dr. Patel also pledged to pay all of the "allowed claims" of the former Hilton's creditors and spend $3 million to cover operating costs over the next 13 weeks.

To take effect, his plan must win the backing of Shubh's creditors and the OK of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Pittsburgh. That makes the next two weeks, in which leading creditor BlackRock will have time to scrutinize the Patel proposal, extremely critical.

Anything can happen in court, but the odds are improving for victory at the Point -- not just for the future operators of a successful hotel, but also for Pittsburgh's chance to have a first-class facility there again.

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