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Capitol West Owner Sues To Block Hartford's Acquisition

Jenna Carlesso

May 05, 2011

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

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

"They haven't followed the mandates of the redevelopment district," Levy 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 approved a plan last month to condemn the property after negotiations between the city and the owner reached a stalemate.

The lawsuit, which the city received Tuesday, states that Hartford officials have "no basis" for asserting that the building is in poor condition.

Under state law, a redevelopment agency cannot acquire property by eminent domain unless the agency has "considered the benefits to the public and any private entity that will result from the redevelopment project, and determined that the public benefits outweigh any private benefits," according to the suit.

In this case, the suit states, the public benefits don't outweigh the private benefits.

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 for the building in 2004 and planned to convert it to apartments or condominiums. Although he started the work, including the removal of windows and interior demolition, construction stopped when the housing market suffered a downturn and demand for apartments fell.

Guttman has offered to sell the building for $2 million, officials said, but the city wasn't willing to pay more than $1 million. City officials have put the building's current value at about $448,000.

Carl Nasto, a lawyer in the office of Hartford's corporation counsel, 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 Superior Court in Hartford.

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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