(This week and next the Lantern will give an in-depth look at Campus Partners’ plan for High Street redevelopment. We will revisit the series throughout the quarter, hoping to provide readers with a clearer idea about the project.)Today: How eminent domain will be used to acquire property and how business owners are reacting.

Say goodbye to Panini’s, Magnolia Thunderpussy, Apollo’s, Not Al’s Rockers and most of the businesses that currently occupy south campus. The process has begun in which Campus Partners could obtain south campus properties using eminent domain.Campus Partners owns almost half of the seven acres it plans to acquire for its Gateway project and the rest is likely to be obtained using eminent domain, said Bill Courson, director of community development for Campus Partners.

Several properties acquired

Out of the $25 million given to the organization by the university, $15 million is set aside for property acquisition, said Terry Foegler, president of Campus Partners. The group bought most of the properties that are available, and Foegler said the rest of the building owners have either high-balled the price, have tenants with long leases or are unwilling to sell.Campus Partners’ first property acquisition was of the former location of Papa Joe’s bar, Off Campus bar and Waterbeds and Stuff, all of which burnt down in April 1996. Campus Partners bought the site in February 1997. It paid $1.39 million to purchase the 2.3-acre site of the former Big Bear Bakery in May 1997, and the building was demolished this summer.This spring, Campus Partners made its most recent acquisition, of the former Chinese laundry and National City Bank buildings on High between West 10th and 11th avenues. If remaining properties enter the market, Campus Partners will purchase them at fair market value, based on three appraisals, Courson said.

Building owners won’t budge

Property that is not on the market will be obtained through eminent domain, Foegler said.”If necessary, (Campus Partners) will use eminent domain as a tool to assemble land,” he said.However, not all owners in the area are willing to sell their property.”I won’t sell the building willingly. I’ll only let it go if the city takes it away,” said Richard Talbott, president of Inn-Town Homes and a member of the Campus Partners Advisory Steering Committee. Talbott owns the building on West 11th Avenue that contains the Cornerstone bar, Cluck-U-Chicken and East of Chicago pizza. Talbott said he proposed to cover his building with the same material as the ones to be built, but Campus Partners didn’t take to the idea.Pete Mattis owns the two deck building on West 11th Avenue and North High Street with Greek Village, Subway, Silver Ball arcade, Apollo’s, Szechuan Cottage, Skully’s and Colors Barber Shop. Mattis said he doesn’t want to sell his building on the market nor could he because of long-term leases with tenants, but agrees the area is deteriorating. “The essence of it is, I don’t want my building taken, but something has to be done with the area,” he said.

Declaring the area blighted

Although Campus Partners will be the “land assembler,” only the city has the power of eminent domain, Courson said. Eminent domain cannot be used until it is publicly reviewed and a relocation plan is created, he said. The city council must conduct a study before it can declare an area blighted and use eminent domain, said Steve McClary, the planning administrator for the city of Columbus. The study includes reports from several city agencies, including traffic engineering and code enforcement, McClary said.The Ohio revised code has a broad definition of blight, which includes structures that suffer disasters or are unsafe, are hazards to health or safety, deteriorated, obsolete “and are detrimental to the public health, safety, morals and general welfare (see graphic).”If city council declares the area blighted, the city can buy the property for fair market value and sell it to Campus Partners, Courson said.”The expectation is that declaration of blight will be used to open up the city’s power to use eminent domain,” said Steve Sterrett, spokesman for Campus Partners. Although leases under eminent domain are terminated, Campus Partners and the city of Columbus will pay to relocate businesses, Courson said. A relocation plan must be established before eminent domain can be used, but the city governs its implementation.Foegler said Campus Partners and the city have been discussing the plan for the past few months and have hired a consultant to help with the process.

Moving businesses or paying them to close

Relocation of businesses and residences in the area will be paid for by Campus Partners and the city of Columbus, Courson said. There are 31 commercial spaces and 85 residential spaces in the Gateway district, some of which are already vacant.Business owners have two options. They can refuse relocation and declare the move would put them out of business. In this case, the business is eligible for compensation for loss of business for up to three years and up to $20,000 for additional expenses. Bars are more likely to choose this option because of the shear amount of furniture and equipment they use, Courson said.”It’s easier to move a CD store than a bar,” he said. The second option is relocating the business. Businesses that relocate are paid up to $15,000 in moving expenses. They are also compensated for loss of business during the move, totaling $10,000 for most businesses and up to $50,000 for businesses with a liquor license, he said. Residential tenants can also refuse or relocate, Courson said. For relocation, a comparable apartment in the area is found, Courson said. All moving expenses are paid for and any difference in rent is compensated for 42 months. “We will make sure people are relocated to a comparable position,” he said.

The next step

Foegler said the eminent domain agreement, including the relocation plan, will be contained in a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the city. The memorandum will also spell out details about a parking authority for the district, it’s special improvement status and design guidelines. He said it would be done by November.Ohio State wants a return on its investment, so Foegler said they will retain ownership of the land and lease it back to businesses. Before eminent domain takes place a preliminary agreement will be made with a developer, probably in February 1999.However, he said, Campus Partners will continue to be the group that’s using eminent domain, pieces together properties. Foegler said acquiring land would take place over the next several years.

Friday: Student involvement in the plan and community activists reaction to it.Next week: A look at the actions of police and liquor enforcement on South Campus, a closer look at the area and more.