The case for eminent domain: Exhibit A

February 17, 2011
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42 E WashingtonWhen the scaffolding went up at 42 E. Washington St., so did the hopes of many of its neighbors. Would one of the city's oldest buildings, erected in 1880, finally get some love after years of neglect? Might the Antonopoulos family, which has owned the building since the late 1970s, join with its neighboring property owners in sprucing up a 42 E Washington 2blighted stretch of downtown's main street? The answer: No. Instead, workers are removing the wood panels (painted to resemble brick) that covered the windows and replacing them with concrete block. Dino Antonopoulos says the family has no immediate plans for a renovation of the building, but he wanted to seal the windows to keep out moisture after a few bricks fell from the façade. He plans to cover the blocks—and the rest of the brick façade—with plaster. Smaller window holes would be cut as part of an eventual renovation. The building's upper floors are unusable in the current state, but the first floor is home to a jewelry shop. Property Lines is a strong supporter of property rights and bristles at knee-jerk NIMBYism. But if you abuse your child, the law says you lose your child. It's time for the city—or someone who cares about the city—to intervene. Antonopoulos says he'd be willing to sell the building but would not name his price. Whatever it is, the price of keeping him as a downtown property owner seems higher.

UPDATE: The city just posted a stop-work order. The building owner did not file for the required Regional Center Approval for changes to the façade or window openings. The Department of Metropolitan Development had given the building owner permission to repair the upper part of the façade because of safety concerns about falling brick. "We suggest all concrete block be removed ASAP and that you only do what was approved in the permit," Senior Planner Jeff York wrote in an e-mail to Antonopoulos.

(Staff photos / Cory Schouten)

  • Blinded By The Blight
    This building owner should be "exiled from main street"! This entrance into our CBD from the West is clouded with carless building owners at this particular spot and it's gone on way too long. I think it's commendable you're calling them out on such irresponsible actions, but the City seems a bit slow to react until someone makes a fuss...same is true for the BWW's initial exterior color/design choices which were eventually reversed after the City became aware of the negative rumblings. And thank goodness the IBJ offices directly across from this blighted mess, otherwise, how far would it have gone before the City issued a stop-work order...??
    • Drawing a line
      Government has a vest interest when actual (not imagined) safety and health risk are present.

      Eyesores do not constitute safety and health risks.
    • What!
      Well, excuse me, but I happen to know that the City had already contacted Code Enforcement before anyone contacted the City. In fact, IBJ did not contact the City - they sent an email to IDI, which has no enforcement powers whatsoever. Retail Broker - you know nothing of what transpired.
    • Fact-checking Moi
      I did contact the city. Emailed with Maury Plambeck, who provided the information in my update above. Our overture with IDI was to find out whether the building owner received any "facade-improvement" money from the group.
    • How about condemnation?
      Eminent Domain implies the owner will receive payment for the property, doesn't it? And don't owners legally have up to 3 tries at arriving at an "I-give-in-price"? Seems that's what the Goodmans held out for over all those years. Condemnation, unless I'm wrong, would be a wholly different ballgame - maybe a lengthy one, but would deny the owner the relatively more rewarding prospect of payment via Eminent Domain. And, by the way, it's rare that owners don't walk away relatively happy under E.D. since, if a gov't. wants it bad enough, it usually pays what it takes to get it. What's your opinion, Cory?
    • Eminent Domain
      As someone who works under ED laws every day, I'd disagree with Frank's statement that "it's rare that owners don't walk away relatively happy..." And his explanation of ED and condemnation are somewhat misleading.

      Eminent Domain is simply the right of a government agency to acquire private property for a specific reason or purpose for public benefit (not sure which particular ED law Cory is proposing, maybe economic development or "blight?"). Condemnation is the end result of a failure to reach an agreement on a price. Keep in mind that government is restricted in what it can offer an owner for their property, so negotiation can only go as far as fair market value and some other limitations allow (as a taxpayer protection). Failing to reach an agreement, condemnation is where a court determines the value.
    • Theft? Repossession?
      What happened to the business owners' cars, Retail Broker?!?
    • purchase Price
      I actually had the property under contract years ago for 800k..that was a different should go for 600k easy...if there was a plan for would be a great buy...the upper levels are all destroyed...dirt concrete and falling apart...hazardous...I thought...maybe I could turn the first level into a coffeehouse/bar...but thre were way too many hazardous conditions within the building to even buildout a kitchen.
    • Penn Centre
      Hey Cory!

      Any news (like,"It's alive!) regarding Penn Centre?
    • A photo history of 40 E. Washington Street
      Thought you might like to see the progression of this building's slow decline.
    • Not worth it
      That stretch looks like sin but 42 and the building on either side aren't positioned to be much of anything.

      "Might the Antonopoulos family, which has owned the building since the late 1970s, join with its neighboring property owners in sprucing up a blighted stretch of downtown's main street?"

      42 is about 20' wide and 100' deep, hardly lending itself to anything beyond its original purpose - wholesale/retail. A restaurant doesn't need 5 stories - somebody tried a restaurant at 36, which tanked.

      It could be office space I guess but it's probably so far gone and in need of major reno that it's not worth it.

      Times change:

      Look at the foot traffic in that pic - I don't think they get that now.

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