City Settles With Owner of Land Where It Will Build the "New" Park Forest Library Branch

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At some point this morning, the city council will vote to pay something called 11900 Marsh Lane, L.P. out of Houston a little more than $800,000 for a piece of land currently on the tax rolls for around $458,000. That's a piece of property near Marsh and Forest where once stood an apartment complex that burned down. It's also where the city expects to plant the new Park Forest branch of the Dallas Public Library system.

County court records show the city filed suit in December to "exercise its power of eminent domain to acquire property for public libraries and any other municipal purpose." I had First Assistant City Attorney Chris Bowers on the phone late yesterday about several other issues I'll get to throughout the day, so I asked him about this one. He said the city settled with the owners rather than let the courts decide the case.

He said the city initially offered $700,000 for the property -- "based," he said, "on an independent appraisal the city obtained." He says the owners initially wanted $1,160,000. I asked about the disparity between the DCAD value, the asking price and the city's ultimate cost. He replied: "It's a common complaint that commercial properties -- and multifamily, which this was -- often seems to have values lower than where the marketplace is." You already knew this.

For those not paying attention, the Park Forest branch was one of eight recommended for replacement in the 2001 library master plan, chiefly because its "site selection significantly restricts future expansion options." (Also included: the old Walnut Hill branch, now a rotting vacant building.) And so a replacement was among the items included in the 2006 bond program; in February the city agreed to pay VAI Architects close to $500,000 for architectural and engineering design services on the project.

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