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STATLER TOWERS, TRICO TAKEN OFF AUCTION BLOCK

The Statler Towers has been yanked off the auction block.

So have the old M. Wile plant and the former Trico industrial complex.

But when the gavel falls at Buffalo's annual foreclosure auction Monday, bidders will likely have a shot at buying about 1,000 properties.

As of late Friday, about 1,300 parcels remained on the foreclosure list, including many residential dwellings, vacant lots and some commercial buildings. But Assessment and Taxation Commissioner Bruna Michaux said the roster has been getting shorter by the hour.

"People are coming in at the last minute to pay their taxes," she said. "It has been a constant flow. And I expect them to be paying right up until auction time."

The lines in tax office were long Friday as property owners scrambled to pay delinquent taxes.

"I was only working part time until recently, and I fell behind," said one woman who declined to give her name. "But I'm working full time now, and this is never going to happen again."

The city plans to assume ownership of up to 448 properties if there are no bidders. Inspectors identified 377 parcels that would be "struck to the city" in the event no minimum bids are received, Michaux said.

Many of the properties would be demolished. The Office of Strategic planning has identified an additional 71 properties that would be transferred to the city if no bids are received, parcels that are located in redevelopment areas.

The auction will begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday in the convention center and will continue Tuesday.

Some notable addresses that appeared on the original list have recently been removed. Michaux said the owners of the Statler Towers have paid a delinquent tax bill. Downtown properties owned by Erie, Pa., developer Stephen B. Garvey have also been removed from the auction list, including the former M. Wile and Trico plants near Washington and Goodell streets.

McGarvey has been working for several years on redevelopment plans that include upscale office space and luxury apartments. Financing problems have delayed the project, but McGarvey's Signature Management Group recently forged a partnership with Ciminelli Development. City officials believe the partnership will jump-start the Trico plant project.

Michaux said she expects properties in all parts of the city to be offered at the auction, although there is higher concentration of parcels in the Ellicott, Masten and Fillmore districts.

The city tax office has been under increasing pressure from Common Council members to find ways to prevent unscrupulous investors from buying properties at bargain prices, then selling them at inflated prices, or allowing them to further deteriorate. One proposal would give people who intend to live in the properties they buy first crack at bidding during auctions. Michaux said enforcing such a provision would be tough, and could open the city to legal challenges from some who might view the restrictions as discriminatory.

"We do everything possible to prevent unscrupulous people from buying properties," she said. "But some of them are very astute. You close one loophole, and they open another."

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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