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Mall before the fall

Putting a roof over it was the ticket, said Eugene Weiss, long-timer owner of the Latham Circle Mall.

In 1973 Weiss purchased the shopping center for $6 million, and he had it enclosed four years later. He said he set out to improve the structure, and according to many he did.

But those improvements were short-lived. Controversy and a lawsuit contributed to the mall's eventually decline to the empty hulk it is today, according to those who experienced the downfall first-hand.

In the 1980s, the mall was involved in a lawsuit involving land it used for a 24-car parking lot. Spotlight Newspapers articles from that time indicate Olga Golonka filed an $8.5 million lawsuit against the Latham Circle Mall for illegally taking her land " a half-acre adjacent to the property.

Golonka had moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1982 after raising her family in Latham, but at 85, she continued to press for compensation and a return of her property.

The Spotlight articles, dated from June 24, 1997, and July 22, 1997, said representatives from the mall argued that the land had become the mall's by "adverse possession," since 10 years had passed.

State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi did not accept that argument and said the mall's representatives acted with a lack of "corporate conscience" and "malevolence."

The property was eventually returned to Golonka and restored to what it looked like before it was paved. She continued to seek $8.5 million in punitive damages but ultimately settled.

Her attorney Christopher Scaringe said both sides were happy with the turnout.

"In the end it was settled to both parties' satisfaction," Scaringe told The Spotlight, adding that he couldn't remember the amount of the settlement.

Weiss said the nearly half-acre piece of property is worth about $150,000, and what she received was generous compensation for the land.

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