By Doug Haberman
RIVERSIDE – Dr. V. Prabhu Dhalla is an immigrant success story.
He has earned his reputation and his fortune as an orthopedic surgeon based in Riverside, and his success has enabled him to buy property as an investment, including sites in downtown Riverside.
Now some of that property has landed him in a clash with the city.
The Redevelopment Agency wants to buy the parcels for a parking garage next to the historic Fox Theatre, which the city is spending up to $30 million to renovate and convert into the 1,600 seat Fox Performing Arts Center.
Dhalla and the agency are more than $1 million apart in estimating the property’s value. The disagreement could end up in court as an eminent domain case if the two sides can’t strike a deal.
Born and raised in New Dehli, Dhalla came to the United States in 1977 to complete his medical education and to practice medicine.
He was lured to Riverside for a job interview and was smitten by the palm trees, the roses blooming on Victoria Avenue in winter, the size of the city and the universities andmedical centers, he said.
He moved here in 1980 with his wife and two children.
“It has worked out good for us,” Dhalla, 60, said.
He has succeeded as an orthopedic surgeon, thanks to his skill in repairing the broken bones, damaged joints and injured nerves of his patients.
“It’s very rewarding,” Dhalla said, “because we see people who are hurt and fix them up and they leave happy.”
“He’s a brilliant surgeon,” said Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge, a friend.
Dhalla has served on the executive committee of the medical staff at Riverside Community Hospital, as the chairman of orthopedics and as a member of the hosiptal’s foundation board.
Dhalla and his son, Raja, share a medical office on Market Street. Dhalla’s wife, Prabha, runs the office after practicing family medicine herself for many years.
Dhalla has bought property in the Inland region as an investment, including in Riverside.
“He’s a very astute businessman, very savvy in real estate,” said Riverside developer Doug Jacobs. Dhalla is an investor in one of Jacobs’ projects.
Dhalla bought some of the property next to the Fox in the 1980s and leased the space to antique stores. He also owns or co-owns three parcels that the Redevelopment Agency wants for the garage.
The City Council, acting as the agency board, in November authorized the use of eminent domain to acquire the property but asked the city officials to try to negotiate a a deal with Dhalla before filing a court case.
An appraisal for the agency valued the property at almost $3.2 million. Dhalla paid for his own appraisal. There is a difference of more than $1 million, said Councilman Mike Gardner, whose ward includes downtown.
“My objective is to reach an amicable agreement with the doctor,” Gardner said.
Dhalla backed Gardner in his successful 2007 campaign to unseat Councilman Dom Betro.
Dhalla said he believes there is plenty of parking space for the Fox, either in existing garages or on land other than his where a garage could be built.
But Dhalla said he is still trying to reach an agreement and thinks he can if the city is reasonable.
“I think it will be resolved,” he said.
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