12/17/2007

On Exchange Street, eminent domain becoming imminent: Akron OH Buchtelite, 10/25/07

By Brandon Welk

The University of Akron has had plans for a new stadium in the works for a while now: The $55 million contract was approved several months ago. Groundbreaking and excavation for the InfoCision Stadium is expected to begin in January. It will replace the decrepit Rubber Bowl and will include rooms for classes and more parking spaces. Completion of the stadium is scheduled for the 2009 Zips' football season, when they will have a new place to lose to the Buckeyes.

There are several issues regarding the construction of the new stadium, including the campus community's acceptance of increased traffic, estimated costs incurred and whether it is justifiable to replace the Rubber Bowl and most notable, the biggest issue: eminent domain.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, eminent domain refers to the power of the state to assume ownership of private property for public use, with compensation to the owner. To build a stadium, the university needs to buy much of the property surrounding campus to make room.

There have already been students displaced from the residence halls next to the Rec Center to the new Exchange Street dorm because the property will be needed for the stadium. Though the university owned that property already, move a little farther out from campus and there's plenty of property they didn't.

The job of buying property isn't over yet, but plans for demolishing buildings on the property aren't expected to be delayed. Though there are multiple businesses located on Exchange Street that will be affected by eminent domain, none is more noticeable or popular than Manny's Pub across from Europe Gyro and Campus Book and Supply.

And no business owner dislikes the prospect of being forced to move more than Manny does. He doesn't want to have to move the business he's worked so hard to maintain, and when asked about how he felt about eminent domain and the new stadium, he replied, "I'm still here, aren't I?"

Why would he want to move? He's got the perfect location: accessible by students and those living walking distance of the university, a loyal customer base and features that keep people coming back.

Featuring nightly drink specials, a $2 shot of the night, three pool tables, a dart board and an Internet jukebox, Manny's has plenty to offer. It also offers a touchscreen game machine, plenty of bar space, tables, and booths, an outdoor patio that welcomes smokers, friendly employees and Friday night's legendary Power Hour.

Manny's Pub has more to offer than the bars downtown with a more personal atmosphere and the advantage of being close enough to campus to not worry about needing a cab.

Not to mention, if Manny is forced to leave, he's not only losing one business, he's losing three, as he owns the neighboring Aroma Coffee & Tea and leases the Chopstix Chinese restaurant next to that.

But it seems that, sadly, eminent domain is becoming more imminent. The university wants that property.

Ted Curtis, the vice president of capital planning and facility management, has recently stated that the first phase of the drawing for the new stadium isn't completed yet, it hasn't delayed groundbreaking.

Here's a solution: If the architectural designs aren't done yet, why not include Manny's in the design? If the land is needed anyway, why not keep Manny's there, but incorporate the physical structure into the new stadium somehow? Have Manny's be a part of the same building as the stadium, but with a separate entranceway facing Exchange Street.

That way, the building isn't moving far. It can retain the same customers and features that make it one of the best bars in Akron, and even more people can enjoy Manny's because of its direct proximity to the stadium. Having a bar like that built into a stadium isn't unheard of, so why can't we make it work?

One of the goals of eminent domain is to compensate the owner of the private property for the fair value of the property taken. But who can place a fair value on all of the hard work that Manny has put into building the business he loves so much or on all the countless nights of fun had there?

That sum might be difficult for the university to muster.


Akron OH Buchtelite: http://media.www.buchtelite.com