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$6,510 pledged of $150,000 goal
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By John Graf
$6,510 pledged of $150,000 goal
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About this project

Taking a Step to to Transform a Region

The renovation of the historic Westinghouse Castle into a destination restaurant and hospitality center offers an opportunity not just to save and re-purpose a landmark building - it illuminates a path toward transforming a region which has been beset by hard times.

George Westinghouse, inventor of the air brake (which revolutionized train travel) and champion of the alternating current, was a true visionary. In 1893 he located his air brake business to Wilmerding, PA, in the Turtle Creek Valley, outside of Pittsburgh.  There he built Westinghouse Air Brake Company's world headquarters, designed by noted architect Frederick Osterling.  In recent years, the building -- due to its exquisite architecture -- has been known as the "Westinghouse Castle."

Industry left the Turtle Creek Valley in the 1970's and 80's, and Wilmerding, like many of its counterpart mill towns in Western Pennsylvania, was beset by challenges.  Jobs left.  People left. Commerce left.  

While the Castle remains, it too has challenges.  It has been abandoned since 2012, and is deteriorating day by day.  

John Graf, owner of the Priory Hospitality Group, which has developed a former monastery into the pioneering 42 room Priory Hotel and which also owns and operates the historic Mansion on Fifth Hotel, both in Pittsburgh, knows something about developing independent hospitality venues.  He acquired the Castle at Sheriff's sale in 2016.  

Priory Hotel Courtyard at Night
Priory Hotel Courtyard at Night

 

The Grand Hall at the Priory
The Grand Hall at the Priory

 

Interior - Mansions on Fifth Hotel
Interior - Mansions on Fifth Hotel

It's Graf's plan to convert the Castle into a destination dining facility, hotel and event space, and in the course of doing this, hopefully provide a shot in the arm to a community which can use some help.  The hotel will feature an affordable restaurant with an emphasis on innovative cuisine and fresh and local ingredients, as well as 40 guest rooms and multiple event rooms for meetings and celebrations. 

Jumpstarting a Once Thriving Industrial Town

The renovation and re-use of the Castle as an eating destination, hotel and event center will provide multiple benefits to the Turtle Creek Valley

*  Preservation of a Community Icon:  It will preserve an historic and iconic structure connected to one of the foremost innovators in American History, George Westinghouse, and will do so in a way which attracts visitors from around the country and around the world.  This brings new money into the Turtle Creek Valley economy, and will provide an example for further investment into the area.  

* Job Creation:   Once operating, the Castle Hotel will provide 70-80 good-paying jobs in a neighborhood with high unemployment, including jobs for youth without job experience.  

* Job Training:  The Castle Hotel will offer free training programs and externships in hospitality fields to high school, vocational school and two year college students to get them the experience they need to launch their careers. 

* Local Sourcing:  The Castle Hotel will, when completed, buy local first -- from local produce and food vendors (with a leg up to sustainably-raised products), to insurance agents, to hardware vendors, and so forth, creating a positive ripple effect in the local economy.  

* Community Discounts:  The Castle Hotel's restaurant - emphasizing fresh local ingredients and an affordable menu - will offer on a daily basis discounts to community members.  

* Community Use of the Facility:  The Castle Hotel will offer free or discounted event and meeting space for local residents and organizations.  

* Celebrating the Building's Heritage:  The use of the building - in large part event and restaurant space, will allow for the display of cultural artifacts which will be available to the community and the world to view whenever they visit. 

Rending of Castle Hotel Restaurant
Rending of Castle Hotel Restaurant

Use of Kickstarter Funds

The total cost of renovations will be approximately $11 million.  While a Kickstarter campaign cannot provide all of this funding, without it the project likely cannot move forward.  While Graf has acquired title to the building and grounds, the project is in need of seed funding to leverage further investment. Graf has applied for several government grants, and is seeking re-development funding from private sources, seed capital via Kickstarter is necessary to:  (a) pay professional fees, such as architects and engineers; (b) pay consultant fees to leverage state and local grant funding; (c) pay consultant fees to assist with the development of historic tax credit funding; and (d) pay certain carrying costs associated with the property, such as property taxes, insurance and similar expenses.  The developers will place Kickstarter funding into an escrow account, and only out-of-pocket expenses specifically related to the ongoing development of the Castle will be drawn against those funds.  We take the appropriate use of funds for this project extremely seriously.  

Rending of Castle Hotel Guest Room
Rending of Castle Hotel Guest Room

Due Diligence

The Developer  has obtained reports from consultants both with regard to hotel demand and demand for events, and both are positive. The Developer, who has experience in this type of development through the Priory, has developed detailed pro formas which demonstrate that the operations will be sustainable if the property operate consistent with certain reasonable projections.  

Rending of Castle Hotel Foyer
Rending of Castle Hotel Foyer

Current Status

Where the Development Stands Now:  (1) The title to the Castle property is clear, and ready for development; and (2) The Developer has stabilized the property in terms of maintenance, landscaping, and major problems (e.g., roof leaks, etc.); (3) The Developer is completing investment materials for private investors to fund the primary portion of the renovation.  

Castle Hotel Site Plan Rendering
Castle Hotel Site Plan Rendering

Projected Timeline

Projected Timeline:  (1) June 2017 - March 2018: Capital Raising; (2) April 2018 - December 2019:  Development of engineering and architectural drawings and finalizing design specs and drawings.  Contractor bidding and selection; (3) January 2019 - November 2019:  Construction, obtaining furnishings, fixtures and equipment; interior design.  (4) End of November 2019. Grand Opening.  

Public Interest

Since John Graf's quest to re-develop the Castle began in 2012, his vision for the property has engendered a great deal of public interest, both in local Pittsburgh and in the national media.  

Pittsburgh KDKA TV (CBS) May 2017

Associated Press May 2017

Distinction Magazine March 2017

UpGruv October 2016

Pittsburgh Magazine July 2016

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 2016

Pittsburgh Tribune Review June 2016

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 2016

Wall Street Journal August 2013

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 2013

Pittsburgh WTAE TV (ABC) March 2013

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette March 2013

 

Risks and challenges

While we are confident that the Westinghouse Castle restoration project will offer many community benefits, and the Developers will work closely with community members, the Developers are creating a for profit project.

As with any redevelopment project, the Westinghouse Castle restoration has certain risks which may result in the project being delayed or terminated.

While the Developers have secured tile to the building and grounds and have stabilized the property, the building does remain empty, and there is a risk that vandalism or fire or other damage to the facility could delay or altogether foreclose the project.

The funds raised from the Kickstarter campaign will be used for pre-development funding of certain aspects of the project, such as paying professional fees (such as architects) as well as certain carrying costs related to maintaining the building and grounds. The overall budget for the renovation of the building and conversion to a restaurant, hotel and event facility use is approximately $11 million. Developers plan to raise these funds through a variety of sources, including government and private grants, historic tax credits, developer capital investment, private third party equity, EB-5 visa program funding, and bank debt. In the event that Developers are unable to raise the necessary funding, the project will not be able to move forward. It may also take longer than projected to reach funding goals, which will also delay the commencement of the project.

Obviously, if the project is not able to move forward, rewards tied to the facility being open will not able to be honored. However, we have intertwined immediate rewards related to our other hotel properties and bakery so that supporters will receive relatively immediate tangible rewards.

There may be other unknown risks, for which the Developers have not accounted (as they are unknown), which could delay or cause the termination of the project. For instance, certain ground or building conditions may cause the budget of the project to increase to the point where moving forward is cost prohibitive.

Although the Developers have no knowledge of any governmental issues which would delay or terminate the project moving forward, it is possible that governmental action or inaction relating to the issuance of permits, water and sewer tie-ins, and other activities could result in the delay or termination of the project.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Castle Hotel Basic Club

    Includes:
    • One dozen "Westinghouse Castle" sugar cookies
    • Your name on "Donors Wall of Support" - Castle Hotel Restaurant
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    14 backers
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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Castle Hotel Ensign's Club

    Includes:
    • One dozen "Westinghouse Castle" sugar cookies
    • Your name on "Donors Wall of Support" - Castle Hotel Restaurant
    • $25 Food Certificate for the Monks' Pub at Priory Hotel
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    Estimated delivery
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    7 backers
    $
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Castle Hotel Lieutenant's Club

    Includes:
    • One dozen "Westinghouse Castle" sugar cookies
    • Your name on "Donors Wall of Support" - Castle Hotel Restaurant
    • $25 Food Certificate for the Monks' Pub at Priory Hotel
    • $25 Food Certificate for Priory Fine Pastries Bakery Pittsburgh
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    10 backers
    $
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Castle Hotel Captain's Club

    Includes:
    • One dozen "Westinghouse Castle" sugar cookies
    • Your name on "Donors Wall of Support" - Castle Hotel Restaurant
    • $25 Food Certificate for the Monks' Pub at Priory Hotel
    • $25 Food Certificate for Priory Fine Pastries Bakery Pittsburgh
    • Priory Hotel Small Plates Event for two ($120 value)
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    3 backers
    $
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Castle Hotel Admiral's Club

    Includes:
    • One dozen "Westinghouse Castle" sugar cookies
    • Your name on "Donors Wall of Support" - Castle Hotel Restaurant
    • $25 Food Certificate for the Monks' Pub at Priory Hotel
    • $25 Food Certificate for Priory Fine Pastries Bakery Pittsburgh
    • Priory Hotel Small Plates Event for two ($120 value)
    • Overnight stay in the Castle Hotel (Upon Opening)
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    4 backers
    $
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    Castle Hotel Air Brake Club

    Includes:
    • One dozen "Westinghouse Castle" sugar cookies
    • Your name on "Donors Wall of Support" - Castle Hotel Restaurant
    • $25 Food Certificate for the Monks' Pub at Priory Hotel
    • $25 Food Certificate for Priory Fine Pastries Bakery Pittsburgh
    • Priory Hotel Small Plates Event for two ($120 value)
    • Overnight stay in the Castle Hotel (Upon Opening)
    • Priory Hotel Overnight - Deluxe King Room
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    0 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Castle Hotel Tesla Club

    Includes:
    • One dozen "Westinghouse Castle" sugar cookies
    • Your name on "Donors Wall of Support" - Castle Hotel Restaurant
    • $25 Food Certificate for the Monks' Pub at Priory Hotel
    • $25 Food Certificate for Priory Fine Pastries Bakery Pittsburgh
    • Priory Hotel Small Plates Event for two ($120 value)
    • Overnight stay in the Castle Hotel (Upon Opening)
    • Priory Hotel Overnight - Deluxe King Room
    • Priory Hotel Dinner Date Package (Overnight & $50 dinner voucher)
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    2 backers
    $
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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    Castle Hotel George Westinghouse Club

    Includes:
    • One dozen "Westinghouse Castle" sugar cookies
    • Your name on "Donors Wall of Support" - Castle Hotel Restaurant
    • $25 Food Certificate for the Monks' Pub at Priory Hotel
    • $25 Food Certificate for Priory Fine Pastries Bakery Pittsburgh
    • Priory Hotel Small Plates Event for two ($120 value)
    • Overnight stay in the Castle Hotel (Upon Opening)
    • Priory Hotel Overnight - Deluxe King Room
    • Priory Hotel Dinner Date Package (Overnight & $50 dinner voucher)
    • 3 Certificates for Castle Hotel's 800 sq. ft. President's Suite
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    0 backers
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Funding period

- (30 days)