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City Moves Forward With Plans To Acquire Capitol West

Jenna Carlesso

April 25, 2011

The city will move forward with plans to take the long-vacant Capitol West building on Myrtle Street through eminent domain proceedings.

The city council's vote Monday was the final procedural hurdle, but because the city and the building's owner are far apart on a price, the issue is expected to move to court.

For the city, it's one of four buildings at high-profile, gateway locations that local officials have wanted to demolish and redevelop. Capitol West is considered crucial because it's in full view of motorists traveling west through the city on I-84, including thousands driving to work at The Hartford and Aetna, key employers in the city.

"It's been a major problem for those folks who live in that neighborhood," Councilman Kenneth Kennedy said Monday. "I drive by it every day. It's an eyesore. It does nothing to effect the positive change of the city."

City officials have been negotiating with the building's owner, Joshua Guttman, since August 2010. Guttman paid $1 million in cash for the building in 2004 and planned to convert it to apartments or condominiums. Coleman Levy, an attorney for Guttman, could not be reached for comment Monday.

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 reached a stalemate.

City officials have put the building's current value at about $448,000.

The cost of tearing down the building is estimated at about $2.49 million, officials said. That covers the cost of removing asbestos and underground pollution and the demolition.

The city also could have to pay as much as $90,000 for litigation, officials said.

The Hartford Financial Services Group has offered to contribute $2 million toward the purchase and demolition of the building. Capitol West, vacant for more than a decade, is on the eastern edge of The Hartford's Asylum Hill campus.

Mayor Pedro Segarra and Hartford business leaders last month urged the council to act swiftly on the issue.

"I think the community has spoken in favor of this, and I support it," Segarra said Monday of the eminent domain proceedings. "We've pretty much exhausted all the other options we had. We need to acquire it and bring it down as soon as possible."

But Sean Arena, chairman of the Hartford Redevelopment Agency, said the city shouldn't be spending taxpayers' money to tear down the dilapidated building. The agency voted 4-1 in favor of the project last month, with Arena casting the dissenting vote.

"I don't believe that the city should be bonding money for the next 20 years to pay for this building," Arena said. "Why should taxpayers be burdened with this? We're spending like the money never ends."

But Councilman Corey Brinson said that the public has expressed a strong interest in tearing down the structure.

"Everybody wants to see this building go, and our job is to fulfill the wishes of the people," Brinson said Monday. "I think the council is making a statement that it's a new day in Hartford and we're ready to move forward to have the best-looking city possible."

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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