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Hartford Agency May Take Capitol West Building By Eminent Domain

May Move To Take Over Blighted Property By Eminent Domain


January 24, 2011

HARTFORD The city's redevelopment agency is expected to decide Thursday whether it will move forward with plans to acquire the blighted Capitol West building on Myrtle Street through eminent domain.

Discussions have been ongoing between city officials and the owner of the property, but no agreement has been reached, said David Panagore, the city's chief operating officer.

"We're continuing to have conversations," Panagore said. "We'd like to resolve the situation with an agreed-upon price, but that doesn't seem very likely based upon their statements and the distance between our price and theirs."

Panagore declined to discuss how much money Capitol West's owner is seeking. He said he couldn't estimate what it would cost the city to take the property through eminent domain.

City officials have been negotiating with owner Joshua Guttman since late August. Guttman paid $1 million in cash for the building in 2004 and planned to convert it to apartments or condominiums. The city has put the building's current value at $448,000.

Coleman Levy, an attorney for Guttman, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Capitol West, situated off I-84 westbound near the Asylum Street exit, has been vacant for more than a decade. Officials have identified Capitol West and three other buildings at gateway locations to the city that they want to demolish and redevelop.

Capitol West is considered crucial because it's in full view of motorists on I-84, including thousands traveling to work at The Hartford and Aetna, key employers in the city.

In November, The Hartford announced it would contribute $2 million toward the city's efforts to buy and tear down Capitol West. Liam McGee, the company's chief executive, said the building makes a "poor statement" about the city.

Sean Arena, redevelopment agency chairman, said members on Thursday will have to seriously consider the cost of taking the property through eminent domain. A judge would determine the overall price to be paid for the building, he said.

"We have to look at all the details, given the current budget situation we're in," he said, referring to the projected $10 million shortfall the city is facing this fiscal year. "We need to determine if this will be beneficial for the city, and if we'll have developers lining up for this property. It's not a small issue."

Demolition of the building and clearing of the property alone could cost more than $2 million, Arena said.

City officials, an attorney for Capitol West's owner and possibly the owner himself are expected to attend Thursday's meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at 260 Constitution Plaza.

Three of the redevelopment agency's five commissioners must vote in favor of taking the property through eminent domain for the plan to move forward. It would then go before the city council and the city's planning and zoning commission for approval.

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