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Philly officials could step in if building isn't sold

The owners of a dilapidated landmark hotel in Philadelphia say they might have found a buyer for the prime piece of commercial real estate. City officials hope the sale happens, but if it doesn't, the city might have to take action, which could include using its power of eminent domain, which usually gets private property rights advocates up in arms.

The hotel, in the area of Broad Street and Ridge Avenue, has sat vacant since 1999, attracting vandals who smashed windows and painted graffiti on it. Vagrants moved in until the city sealed off the building.

Built in 1894, the 10-story structure was one of the city's first tall buildings. Now, it's nothing more than an eyesore in an area that is undergoing a rebirth with new apartments and offices, city officials said. The mayor has promised the business community the city will see to it that action is taken on the building.

City officials have placed pressure on the owners to sell it to someone who can develop it. Current owners bought the building and three adjoining acres in 2006 in hopes of turning the hotel into apartments and building more units on the vacant land. After paying $10 million for the property, the owners could not get the needed financing during the economic downturn to complete the project.

The owners defaulted on a loan and are delinquent in their property taxes by more than $700,000.

One of the owners said other groups have been interested in renovating the building, but a deal never materialized. Now a Philadelphia developer wants to buy it, the owner said.

If the sale doesn't go through, city officials have signaled that they will not allow the building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to linger much longer. The city could force a shift in ownership through eminent domain or by listing it for sale because of the back taxes, one city official said.

Source: The Inquirer, "Blighted beauty may get a makeover," Jennifer Lin, Feb. 12, 2012

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