A 3rd District jury has concluded that the Utah Department of Transportation shortchanged a property owner by more than $1 million in its condemnation of land for the I-15 reconstruction project.

Mark Steel Corp. and the Abraham Markosian family challenged UDOT's appraisal of their downtown Salt Lake property in an April 17, 1997, lawsuit.The owners said the 6.09-acre parcel along with their steel plant and other facilities was worth far more than the $1.2 million to $2.4 million offered by the state. Located between 300 and 400 South and 700 and 800 West, the land was condemned for freeway expansion and bridge construction.

Salt Lake attorney Robert S. Campbell Jr. said his clients contested the state's appraisal because it clearly undercut the actual value of the land and facilities.

Jurors agreed, awarding Mark Steel $3.42 million after just four hours of deliberation. The trial before Judge William Thorne concluded late Tuesday after 10 days of testimony and argument.

Mark Steel and the state went into the trial more than $800,000 apart on their estimates of the land value and $250,000 apart on the value of the steel plant building and cranes. They also disagreed on the value of the property left over following the condemnation.

UDOT contended the fair market value of the remaining property would actually increase by as much as $200,000 because of better access from the reconstructed freeway ramps at 400 South. However, the jury rejected the proposed $200,000 offset.

Campbell said Mark Steel, the Markosian family and a tenant on the land, H&K Truck Equipment, are "satisfied that justice has been done by this jury."

He also said the jury verdict should "send a message to UDOT about how condemnation acquisitions should not be handled."

UDOT spokesman Mark Fredrickson said state attorneys are evaluating the judgment and have made no decision regarding a possible appeal.