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Philly won’t pave (artist’s) paradise to put up a parking lot p3

1/30/2015 | Real Estate Blog

Just a few short weeks later, we are going back to our Jan. 3 post about Philadelphia’s attempt to tear down artist James Dupree’s studio/workshop in the Mantua neighborhood. The building is inconveniently located on a block that the city believes would be a perfect spot for a grocery store.

The city wouldn’t have thought of using its power of eminent domain to seize the property before 2005. After that year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London, the redevelopment game changed significantly. As we said in that last post, the ruling allows the government to seize private property (with just compensation) for economic development purposes, even if a private company, not the public, will be the primary, if not only, beneficiary.

Kelo was the law of the land in June 2012, when the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority received the first draft of the Mantua Transformation Plan. That plan identified the city block on which Mr. Dupree’s building sits as the “supermarket initiative.” On Dec. 27, the city’s “declaration of taking” arrived in Dupree’s mailbox.

On Dec. 31 — yes, just four days later — a few key components of Pennsylvania’s eminent domain law went into effect. Those statutes reinstated the limits of pre-Kelo eminent domain. The PRA’s “land grab” — critics’ words — would have been more than distasteful. It would have been illegal.

Dupree had two avenues of redress. First, he could fight the city’s valuation of the property. The initial offer was $600,000, with the PRA throwing in an extra $40,000 for all the improvements he’d made to the building over the years.

Second, he could fight the use of eminent domain.

He did both, and with an artist’s flair. He was also not alone. We’ll finish this up in our next post.


Forbes, “Philadelphia Artist Defeats Eminent Domain Land Grab, Will Keep His Studio,” Nick Sibilla, Dec. 23, 2014

NewsWorks, “Artist’s fight to save studio space from Philly takeover is work in progress,” Peter Crimmins, Nov. 22, 2013