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CITY URGES 40% REDUCTION IN MAIN PLACE ASSESSMENT

A large chunk of Buffalo's downtown real estate -- an entire city block with two large office towers and a shopping center -- may see its taxable value drop by 40 percent.

The Masiello administration is recommending a $10 million drop in the assessment of Main Place Mall and its two high-rises -- Main Place Tower and the Liberty Building.

The drop is the latest reduction in a downtown suffering from a serious fall in commercial property values.

"You're dealing with Class A office space taking a real nose dive," said Joseph Sole, commissioner of assessment.

Main Place, which has gone to court as part of its assessment challenge, is seeking to lower its current assessment on all three buildings from $25 million to $15.1 million.

Sole supports the reduction and, if the Common Council follows suit, it would drop Main Place's taxable value to half what it was three years ago.

For Main Place executives, the settlement is viewed as fair because they would drop their request for a tax refund. They contend that the mall and office buildings have been overtaxed for more than two years.

For many, Main Place has come to symbolize the drop in downtown property values. When the complex went up for sale, the value was estimated at more than $30 million.

The complex, which takes up an entire block of downtown's prime real estate, later sold for about $15 million.

The sharp drop in Main Place's assessment will mean a loss of about $390,556 in annual tax revenue to the city.

In other action, the Council:

Asked the Masiello administration to oversee a study into the feasibility of creating a city-owned electric utility. The study is expected to cost between $50,000 and $125,000.

Requested city lawyers draft a law allowing city police officers to wear their uniforms while working as off-duty security officers. They do not want the law to apply to officers working on private property.

Learned that the Masiello administration found no evidence of improper training at the local police academy. Six recruits from area police departments collapsed from heat exhaustion during physical fitness training in August.

Delayed action on Masiello's appointment of Richard A. Grimm III to the city's Civil Service Commission. Grimm, a Republican, ran against Masiello five years ago.

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