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Holdouts remain in Falls' bid for property Public hearing set on eminent domain

The city plans to condemn a beauty salon and landscaping business on North Main Street this year to make way for a new 130,000-square-foot public safety complex.

Seven of the 11 parcels needed for the estimated $43 million courthouse and Police Headquarters were purchased last year, including some vacant buildings, a deli and an adult bookstore.

A public hearing on the eminent domain procedure to acquire the remaining properties will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 in City Hall, 745 Main St.

"I feel very confident that all the property owners were given ample time and were dealt with fairly by the city," Mayor Vince Anello said Sunday. "I know that we've offered all the property owners not just the fair market value but we've gone beyond that."

Besides the salon and landscaping business, a park owned by the Main Street Business and Professional Association and a mixed-use building owned by the nonprofit Center City Neighborhood Development Corp. also are needed.

Owners of the latter properties both say they expect to soon sign a contract with the courthouse developers, but the two small-business owners apparently aren't happy with what they have been offered.

Kenneth J. Smith, who runs a retail landscaping and snowplowing business at 915 Cleveland Ave., says the time and cost of relocation are the biggest drawbacks to selling.

"I cannot replace what I have for what they're offering me," Smith said in August. "I can't even get close to that."

He bought the property from the city for $4,000 in 1997 and moved his business into its 4,200-square-foot warehouse and office, now assessed at $29,600.

Monica Boyle owns and operates Shear Elegance at 1931 Main St., which she bought for $25,500 in 2001.

Smith would not say what he has been offered for his property, and Boyle could not be reached to comment Sunday.

"I'm very sympathetic to the people that work there and own businesses that are being displaced," said Laurie Davis, who heads the volunteer city Courthouse Advisory Committee and works on Main Street. "On the other hand, we're mandated by the state to build this, and there's a thousand reasons I can tell you why it's the best place."

The North Main Street location, a four-acre site bounded by Michigan and Cleveland avenues and Main and 10th streets, was the proposed site with the largest amount of city-owned land, she said, and could help revitalize a once-booming commercial strip.

John C. Drake, Center City's executive director, said his nonprofit housing agency is happy with its proposed contract for its building at 1901 Main St., which has office space and apartments, assessed at $163,200.

"It's what we were looking for, which is a fair value," Drake said. "Our contract includes expenses for the relocation of tenants."

Anello said the city's economic development office also has tried to offer affected business owners help to relocate.

"The point that's been made clear to us is that they want more money," Anello said of the holdouts.

e-mail: gfranklin@buffnews.com

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