Doctor sells land to city

Dr. Gautam Gupta said the city ‘coerced’ him into selling his land at an estimated $145,000 loss

One year after being threatened with eminent domain by the City of Rockford, Dr. Gautam Gupta, owner of the Nutrition Clinic of Rockford, sold his downtown property to the city for $320,000 on Aug. 25.

The city said it plans to tear down the old D.J. Stewart garage located on the 38,000 square-foot property, and use the land, which extends from West State to Elm streets and is bordered by the MetroCentre, the Winnebago County Courthouse and Downtown Discount Drug, for flat-level parking.

Gupta had been negotiating the price of the property with the city for more than a year and was scheduled to take the city to court to determine a fair price. The city’s appraisal, conducted by Charles Davidson & Associates, put the value of the land at $137,000. Gupta’s own appraisal of the property, conducted by Appraisal Research Inc., estimated the value of the land to be $645,000.

Although much higher than its original offer of $137,000, the $320,000 agreement is far less than the $600,000 the city paid to purchase the smaller (29,000 square-foot), less prominent (corner of Wyman, Chesnut and Main streets) Brown Loft Apartments property earlier this year. The Brown lot was owned by William Charles Ltd. and First Rockford Group, two of Mayor Doug Scott’s largest campaign contributors.

Gupta had said he believed the city was trying to “coerce” him into selling his property to the city. He was cited for unkept property and threatened with eminent domain in August 2003, cited for unsafe structure in June 2004, and cited for violating the tall grass/weed ordinance July 12.

“This entire situation was absolute coercion by the City of Rockford,” Gupta said in an interview Aug. 26. “Instead of protecting a taxpaying citizen of Rockford, they have robbed me. I’ve done more than almost anyone else for downtown. Downtown needs more people who are willing to invest in their properties there.”

Gupta owns many other properties in the downtown area, including the Rockford Trust Building, Church Street Properties (which houses The Rock River Times), the Irish Rose building, and the Rosecrance building. He also owns four office buildings and a house.

Gupta purchased the West State Street property and old D.J. Stewart garage in August 2002 for $235,000 from his business partner David Casazza. Gupta said it’s difficult to put an exact price on the property, however, because the purchase was part of a renegotiated 1997 deal in which Gupta sold his half share in local tool shop Roper-Whitney for $2.5 million over 10 years and $180,000 per year for life. Gupta said he paid off a $440,000 mortgage on the property in October 2003, meaning he sold the property to the city at a $120,000 loss.

Gupta estimated he also spent about $25,000 over the past year including the cost of the appraisal, legal fees, landscaping and removing the windows from the D.J. Stewart garage.

“I paid $440,000 for the property,” Gupta said. “Considering the given price of $320,000 minus the $25,000 in costs, I lost $145,000.”

Gupta said he had planned to build a hotel and convention center on the property. He also said the MetroCentre, the City of Rockford and On the Waterfront (OTW) were occupying parts of the D.J. Stewart garage without paying rent. The city and OTW have said they are not using the building, while the MetroCentre said it had been using the building for storage.

Gupta said: “The MetroCentre, the city, and On the Waterfront used the building for free for years, and this is how they repay me?”

Editor & Publisher Frank Schier contributed to this article.

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