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Capitol West Owner Sues To Block City's Acquisition Of The Property

By Jenna Carlesso

May 04, 2011

The owner of the Capitol West building on Myrtle Street has filed a lawsuit to stymie the city's efforts to take the property through eminent domain.

Coleman Levy, an attorney for owner Joshua Guttman, said the city hasn't followed state regulations for the redevelopment district where Capitol West is located.

"They haven't followed the mandates of the redevelopment district," he said. "Enhancing -- not demolishing -- is the whole objective."

City officials have said they plan to tear down the building at 1-7 Myrtle St. once they acquire it. The city council last month approved a plan to take the property through eminent domain after negotiations between the city and the property's owner reached a stalemate.

The lawsuit, which the city received Tuesday, states that Hartford officials have "not identified how the ... public benefits outweigh the private benefits."

"Acquisition of the subject property is not necessary or proper to the promotion of the redevelopment plan," the suit states, "and therefore, a taking of the subject property not for a public purpose."

Levy said Wednesday that Capitol West, though long vacant, isn't blighted and doesn't have any building code violations.

"Its taxes are current," he said. "It hasn't been developed in accordance with the plans brought before the town because the economic market doesn't warrant sustaining that at this particular time."

Guttman paid $1 million in cash for the building in 2004, and planned to convert it to apartments or condominiums. And although he started the work, including the removal of windows and interior demolition, construction stopped mid-stream as the housing market suffered a downturn and demand for more apartments wasn't strong enough.

Guttman has offered to sell the building for $2 million, officials said, but the city wasn't willing to pay more than $1 million. The city moved to condemn the property after negotiations stalled.

Carl Nasto, a lawyer in the city's corporation counsel office, said the city is "proceeding with its acquisition of the property through the condemnation process."

"Given the negotiations to date, I'm not surprised they took this action," he said Wednesday. "The city remains willing to discuss the settlement of this matter with the attorney and the property owner at any time."

A hearing on the owner's motion to block the acquisition has been scheduled for May 23 at Hartford Superior Court.

Reprinted with permission of the CityLine blog of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the CityLine at http://blogs.courant.com/cityline/ and the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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