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Appraisals of Statler add to complexity of legalities

Among the numerous questions about the Statler Towers is this: How much is the shuttered landmark actually worth?

Thursday, appraisers for both sides in the debate tried to get at the answer. They inspected the Statler to gather the latest information about the property's condition, said Peter Allen Weinmann, who represents Morris L. Horwitz, trustee in the Statler bankruptcy case.

Weinmann has called for the property to be assigned a value of negative $12.2 million. The City of Buffalo disagrees, standing by the current $1.2 million assessment figure. Weinmann has filed suit in State Supreme Court on behalf of Horwitz. The assessment case is separate from the Statler's Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

As a result of Thursday's inspection, each side in the assessment case will end up receiving a confidential opinion of value from the appraiser working on its behalf. Those reports could help the two sides reach a settlement.

"These assessment challenges move slowly through the court system," Weinmann said.

The Statler's situation is complex, not only because the 18-story property on Niagara Square has been mothballed since January, but because of uncertainty about its future.

According to the latest proposal, the city would take title to the Statler and developer Mark D. Croce's entity, Statler City LLC, would be named the property's designated developer. Statler City LLC has been seeking more than $5 million in public funds to make emergency repairs to the Statler to jump-start the redevelopment.

Weinmann argues that with the $1.2 million assessment, taxes continue to accrue on the property. He said the negative $12.2 million figure reflects the cost involved if a buyer were to demolish the Statler to build anew at the site.

The city's Board of Assessment Review early this year slashed the Statler's assessed value to $1.2 million, from $3.5 million. The city's assessment and taxation commissioner said the $1.2 million figure reflects the Statler's status as a vacant property in a premier location.


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