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MONROE - City officials hope to start negotiations again with the owner of the downtown City Hotel, this time hoping for a deed as well as words.
Mayor C.D. "Al" Cappuccilli said the city's previous administration had spoken with hotel owner Donald F. Brown about renovating the historic structure or the city doing the job itself.
The talks took place late last year, but nothing came of them.
"As I understand it, part of the negotiations included that the city would accept it as a gift from Mr. Brown, and Mr. Brown wanted the city to put an appraised value on the building of a million dollars, for tax purposes," the mayor said. "That's something we can't do."
The building's appraised value was about $300,000, Mr. Cappuccilli said.
The hotel on West Front Street was deemed a "dangerous building" by the city and shut down by the fire department, city officials said last fall.
Any such building can be improved by the government if the owner chooses not to make improvements.
On its agenda last week, council was considering starting repairs.
But Mr. Cappuccilli asked council to table the issue so his administration could try talking with Mr. Brown one last time.
Setting up a meeting, however, has proven problematic: Until Sunday, Mr. Brown was in the Monroe County jail serving time for a probation violation, a jail spokesman said.
Once officials can sit down with Mr. Brown - which they hope to do as soon as possible - they hope he will donate the property to the city, Mr. Cappuccilli said.
If that happened, the city would transform it from eyesore to eye-catcher.
The building is structurally sound, Mr. Cappuccilli added.
"I see the possibility of having a hotel downtown, or a commercial business on the first floor and apartments on top," the mayor said.
Why all the fuss over an old hotel?
"The building itself has some historical significance," Mr. Cappuccilli said, then addressed the issue in the context of the city's vision of a vital downtown.
"To have a building that is kind of dilapidated sitting across the street from a beautiful remodeled building, it just isn't right. It speaks to the character of the city," he said.