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Kelo didn’t quite work out the way supporters thought it would

3/24/2015 | Real Estate Blog

Earlier this year, we were talking about the dispute between artist James Dupree and the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. The city had identified a block in Mantua that would be perfect for a grocery store. Dupree’s building was the only habitable one, and the city attempted to evict him and raze the building. Eventually, Dupree prevailed.

That series of posts — Philly won’t pave (artist’s) paradise to put up a parking lot — afforded us the opportunity to discuss the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. City of New London, a decision about eminent domain and what kind of activity constitutes public use. The line between public and private use was much less distinct after Kelo.

We are just a couple of months away from the 10th anniversary of the decision, and attorneys, legal scholars and real estate professionals have started to assess the damage, so to speak. The attendees at one recent conference in Hartford, not far from New London, seemed less than pleased with the long-term effects of the decision.

One attendee was a representative from an organization that publicly supported the city’s effort to raze a neighborhood to make way for a pharmaceutical company’s expansion. This man wrote the amicus brief in favor of the taking, and his observation now is that the city and its allies lost big in the court of public opinion. And, he said, no one expected that kind of reaction.

The attorney who argued the case for the neighborhood and its lead plaintiff Susette Kelo was also there. His perspective 10 years later: Kelo is “one of the most reviled decisions” in the history of the Supreme Court. So reviled that individual states reacted by passing laws that limited the use of eminent domain — Pennsylvania was among them. Every state┬áthat looked at Kelo, except New York, he said, rejected it.

It doesn’t help that the land remains vacant. The houses were torn down, but the redevelopment deal fell through. Pfizer Inc. left town, and New London fell on tough economic times.

According to another attendee, however, it does help that Susette Kelo is white.

We’ll discuss the more controversial side of the conference and the decision in our next post.

Source: The Day, “Experts agree: Luster is off eminent domain after U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Kelo,” Lee Howard, March 21, 2015