Blighted Building Stands As Effort To Raze It Falls
April 18, 2007
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer
A plan to knock down the boarded-up box unlovingly known as the Butt Ugly Building collapsed before the building could.
It's been more than a year since developer Joseph Citino of Providian Builders floated his idea to buy the building at 1161 Main St., flatten it and build condos in its place. But to make the deal work, Citino needed the city to sell him an adjacent strip of land.
The city has been trying to figure out what to do with the building for a while. It's a highly visible eyesore that confronts visitors entering the city from the Trumbull Street exit off I-84.
Last week, city officials informed the developer's attorneys that negotiations were over because Citino would not agree to make the adjacent parcel a parking lot that complies with city codes.
"There is nothing the city can do for Mr. Citino if he is unwilling to create a parking lot on his own that complies with the applicable city standards," Assistant City Attorney Ben Bare wrote to Citino's lawyer.
Neither Citino nor his attorney was available for comment.
"The building is a terrible blight on the city's horizon," city Development Director John F. Palmieri said. "This is a setback. We were hopeful we would be able to pull it off. Of course we're disappointed."
Citino, whose company has built numerous homes in the city, initially said he would build "ultra luxury" condos. Plan A called for the bare minimum - six or seven stories with retail shops at ground level and 70 units ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet above. Plan B was more ambitious: 21 to 24 stories with more than 200 units.
Citino had an agreement to buy the building from its Florida owner, Robert Danial, for $1.3 million and has put down $200,000 in deposits, records show. Citino also has paid to deal with asbestos on the property, the city said.
The deal hit a snag last month when the city's development staff decided that talks would go no further, but Mayor Eddie A. Perez asked his staff to try again. They did, and talks still went nowhere, Palmieri said.
Citino was unwilling to spend the money it would take to bring the parking lot up to city code - pave it, light it, put up barricades, paint stripes and install car stops.
"He wouldn't agree," Palmieri said, explaining that Citino didn't want to invest a few hundred thousand dollars to improve a parking lot on which he later planned to build.
"It would be unfair for us to force him to spend a few hundred thousand dollars if, within a year's time, he'd have had a development program in place," Pamieri said. "But that isn't the case. ... He might operate it as a parking facility for several years."
Compounding Citino's troubles is a lawsuit Danial filed in state court asking a judge to rule that his sale agreement with Citino is terminated and that he gets to keep Citino's $200,000.
Meanwhile, the building continues to deteriorate. In the year since Citino began to look at the project, city inspectors twice sent its owner notices that the building was unsafe, once because bricks were falling four stories and another time because large chunks of concrete were falling and damaging cars parked below.
Private engineers deemed the building in "generally fair condition" but also said its exterior fire escape was a hazard, city records show.
Palmieri said that the city is considering how to "acquire and control" the building and that the mayor wants the building gone.
"We clearly, without question, believe that the building should come down," he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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