I have posted numerous entries about the "superblock" project in Baltimore. Looks like it just got "resolved."
Quick background: Baltimore was planning to seize several blocks of property to do a redevelopment project on the city's west end. Only one of the main property owners was a multi-billion-dollar foundation that was planning to use the property to do... a redevelopment project. Only the city wanted to control the project. So it seized the property anyway. The foundation had better lawyers than your average property owner, of course, and it looked like a groundbreaking legal fight was in the works.
Well, I think the city saw that. And what we got was a solution in the form of a "land swap." The city gets the foundation's property. And gives the foundation other property in return. A libertarian's dream.
Well, no. Get this:
In January, the city approved an agreement to sell 37 properties, more than half of them owned by the foundation, on 3.6 acres bounded by West Fayette, Howard, Lexington and Liberty streets, and Park Avenue - to Lexington Square for $21.6 million.
The city still must acquire properties to turn over to both development teams and will probably be forced to use condemnation powers to do so.
So let's recap. The city wants to do a redevelopment project, but has to condemn property to get it done. Despite the fact that a redevelopment project is in the works anyway, free of charge to the city. The foundation sends its lawyers into action. So the city proposes a land swap. To get the land it needs for the swap, it seizes property that belongs to someone else. So the foundation that was planning to do a redevelopment project anyway can still do a redevelopment project.
There's still some fight in a few people, though.
Two lawuits are challenging BDC's award of the development rights and subsequent land sale agreement to the Chera/Dawson Group, which formed Lexington Square to complete the project.
For the Weinberg-Cordish project [the foundation project] between Lexington and Clay streets, the city needs to acquire property owned by Nam Koo, owner of the New York Fashions retail chain, which has its flagship store and warehouse in a former movie theater at Lexington Street and Park Avenue.
"He wants to stay in his property" and is prepared to challenge any taking of his property, said Koo's attorney, John C. Murphy. "He has been holding on all these years hoping to stay."
Good luck, Mr. Koo. My suggestion: Get the foundation's lawyers. Maybe they can seize someone else's fashion store and give it to you.