March 3 2010 12:00 AM

Tax foreclosure nears for some local properties

Two major downtown Lansing buildings have escaped tax foreclosure and a third appears likely to be rescued, but a record number of commercial and residential properties in Ingham County remain endangered.

Of over 1,500 properties that were facing foreclosure at the end of 2009, 793 had foreclosure judgments entered against them at a Circuit Court hearing in Mason last week. Owners have until March 31 to pay in most cases. The taxes are due from 2007.

Judgments were issued against 100 S. Washington Square, which is on the southwest corner of Washington and Michigan Avenue, and 211 S. Washington, a historic site that used to be the Michigan Theater. But on Friday, two days after the hearing, the taxes and penalties, totaling $262,604, were paid. The 100 building is owned by Paul Gentilozzi, according to tax records, while 211 S. Washington is owned by a company managed by Gentilozzi.

Remaining on the foreclosure list is 101 S. Washington, on the southwest corner of Washington and Michigan. But Paul Vlahakis, a spokesman and partner in the company that owns it, said that the taxes will be paid by March 15. Vlahakis explained that a new arrangement for payment of taxes had to be worked out with a new financier. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp took over the bank associated previously with the property, Irwin Union, in September. Irwin Union’s portfolio has since been bought by Hamilton, Ohiobased First Financial Bank.

City Pulse reported on a number of these properties in a Dec. 16 story about the rise of properties — notably a higher number of commercial properties — that owe back taxes. By comparison, the 2008 list of properties heading toward tax foreclosure was just over 800. After last year’s judicial foreclosure hearing, Schertzing said that about 450 properties remained on the foreclosure list.

At last Wednesday’s hearing, only a handful of people showed up to ask for an extension to pay their taxes. A show cause hearing was held on Feb. 11, allowing those who owed property taxes to pay up or ask for an extension. Schertzing reported that the Feb. 11 hearing was sparsely attended, too. However, 24 properties of the 793 were granted extensions until the end of May to pay back taxes.

Other big-ticket properties on the foreclosure list include the former Clarion Hotel on Dunckel Road. F, G, and P LLC, the property’s owner, owes the county $205,476 in taxes and fees on 145 individual hotel rooms.

Several Lansing apartment complexes are also still on the list. Those properties include apartments at 914, 1001 and 929 W. Cavanaugh Road, 1100, 1115, 1140, 1140, 1141, 1151 and 1156 Dorchester Circle, and at 4600 S. Pennsylvania Ave. All of those properties combined are behind $273,829. Sameer Dua, a resident agent for the properties, said the taxes will be paid before March 31.

Dua is the resident agent for a number of other apartment complexes, but those have been paid. At the end of last year, Dua and his law firm, Dua and Associates, appeared as resident agent for at least six different limited liability companies that owed a total of $573,534.

Though the number of properties that have passed the judicial foreclosure hearing is higher than last year, Schertzing said that many property owners will pay up before March 31.

“Historically, a vast majority, when forced to do what they have to, will do it,” he said.