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Court OKs Seizure of Pa. Adult Theater

May 22, 2003

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ In what could spell the end for Pittsburgh’s last X-rated movie house, an appeals court said a redevelopment agency could use the power of eminent domain to buy the theater and shut it down as part of a plan to clean up the blighted neighborhood.

Ruling 2-1, the Commonwealth Court said Tuesday the agency was within its rights to seize the Garden Theater on the city’s North Side.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh has been fighting since 1997 to seize the theater as part of an $45 million effort to rebuild the neighborhood. The six-year battle has cost the authority and theater owner George Androtsakis more than $500,000 each in legal fees.

Androtsakis had argued that moviegoers have a First Amendment right to see adult movies and that restrictive zoning laws make it unlikely that his theater could reopen elsewhere in the city.

Authority attorney Joel Aaronson accused the theater owner of trying to claim the ``First Amendment `moral high ground‴ without regard to the way the delay has affected the project to turn the neighborhood around.

Androtsakis’ attorney, Peter Georgiades, said he will decide within a week whether to appeal. Otherwise, the two sides must negotiate a sale price.

The authority initially offered $213,000 but now contends Androtsakis owes $1.75 million in back rent because he kept the theater open.

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On the Net:

Redevelopment authority: http://www.ura.org

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