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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A local business owner was in court Monday to battle a non-profit that wants to take his bar and a new law that may allow it to happen.
Jimmy Coen is known to some as “Jimmy Yinzer,” owner of Yinzer’s Sporting Goods in the Strip District.
Four years ago, Coen bought an abandoned bar in his old neighborhood of Lawrenceville, but now says his dream of bringing it back might be snatched away from him.
“You know what? There’s no way in the world that that could happen in America. It just doesn’t work like that,” Coen said.
Monday, Coen and his attorneys were in court, trying to fend off a lawsuit from the Allegheny County Development Corporation, a non-profit headed by developer Josh Caldwell, who accuses Coen of neglecting and abandoning the property.
“If you see a sagging roof, a roof collapsing, brickwork that needs pointing, that’s blight,” Caldwell said.
But Coen says he’s sunk tens of thousands of dollars into the property, taking the walls down to the studs, repointing the brickwork and rewiring the electrical system. His attorney, Joe Mistick, argues that Caldwell is misusing a new law which allows non-profits to seize neglected properties and turn them around.
“It’s an attempt by one moneyed developer to take people’s hard-earned equity away from them and use it for his own profit,” Mistick said.
Mistick says the so-called conservatorship law is intended to enable non-profits and community groups to seize problem properties in blighted areas, not in hot real estate markets like Lawrenceville.
“This doesn’t make any sense. There are people already investing in these properties, and you just find competitors coming in and trying to take your equity away from you once you’ve purchased and begun to rehabilitate a property,” Mistick said.
Jimmy Coen’s bar may become a test case for this law, which though well-intentioned, may have the unintended consequences of unfairly taking someone’s property.