Seven South Campus properties now remain in the way of the Campus Partners’ University Gateway Project.
The city of Columbus is taking eminent domain action against three South Campus area property owners to acquire the remaining pieces of property located within the proposed site of the Gateway Center.
At least one of the property owners is fighting back.
Jack Beatley, property manager of the apartment buildings on 10th and 11th Avenues, said Campus Partners and the city of Columbus have no right to obtain his properties through the eminent domain process.
The other properties involved are the Old Oar House building and the former building of Magnolia Thunderpussy. The owners were unavailable for comment.
It is unlawful for the city of Columbus to take privately owned property unless the area is blighted or will be used for a public purpose such as an airport or city park, Beatley said. A report on the blightedness of his property was issued by the city, but Beatley said it had insufficient evidence. Some of his buildings were recently built.
“For the city of Columbus to take property away from one private property owner and hand it over to another property owner is suspect,” he said.
The state legislature must pass a bill to authorize the taking of property through eminent domain for a public purpose, he said. The city has no intention to keep the property for a public purpose and they have no money to acquire the properties. They are getting all of their money from Campus Partners.
“They simply want to replace the new apartment buildings with their new apartments buildings,” he said.
Lawyers for Beatley and Campus Partners are in the process of discovery concerning the constitutionality and lawfulness of the property acquisitions, Beatley said.
“I anticipate that it’s going to be a long drawn out expensive process for both sides,” he said. Appeals are possible.
An appeal can take anywhere from eight months to a year, said John Klein, Chief Real Estate Attorney for the city of Columbus. Klein was unavailable for comment concerning Beatley’s remarks.
Cases involving the value of the properties facing eminent domain action are scheduled for December and January, Klein said.
The city originally took imminent domain action against four property owners, said Campus Partners spokesman Steve Sterrett. The owners of the Cornerstone and Panini’s Bar and Grille made agreements to sell their properties to Campus Partners.
Sterrett was unavailable for comment concerning the lawfulness of the eminent domain cases.
“Assuming the courts act in a reasonable time and we are able to acquire the remaining property, we will probably see demolition for summer and groundbreaking next fall,” Sterrett said.
“The fact that the city is going forward with these cases by no means precludes reaching a settlement beforehand, Sterrett said. “On the other hand the remaining owners may continue to contest it through court. It is hard to predict what the courts will do.”
Druker has not yet signed on to be the development company of the Gateway Project, Sterrett said. However, he does expect an agreement to be made.
“In recent months there has been more discussion with the Druker company about finalizing the development agreement,” Sterrett said. “It hasn’t been critical at this point because all of the parties have been working well together.”
It will take 18 months to build the Gateway Center and move in all of the tenants, said Bill Whitney, spokesperson for the Druker Company.
Campus Partners began preliminary planning for the Gateway Center began in 1995. However, the city of Columbus has been involved in trying to revitalize and improve the campus area since the 1980s, Klein said.
Development in urban areas can be difficult and timely because there are usually many different owners of the properties being sought, Sterrett said.
“I don’t think there were any specific timetables laid out. Although I think probably in our own minds we underestimated how long it would take to actually acquire the properties for the area of the Gateway Center,” Sterrett said.