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  1. #1
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    Default "City seizes Mantua artist's paradise to put up a parking lot" - Philadelphia City Paper

    It appears our Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell is behind this...

    City seizes Mantua artist's paradise to put up a parking lot :: Blogs :: The Naked City :: Philadelphia City Paper

    When James E. Dupree bought the building that now houses his Mantua studio in 2005, it was a dilapidated garage and warehouse, fit for condemnation.

    But the 63-year-old artist — who has an international following and has works in institutions like the Philadelphia Museum of Art — spent years pouring money into the 8,000-foot structure on Haverford Avenue. He now uses it to host art classes, workshops, Dupree's own extensive collection of artworks and an Airbnb accommodation praised by tourists looking to stay in a working artist space during their visit to Philly.

    Now, he's set to lose it all. That's because, last December, the City of Philadelphia seized the deed to Dupree's studio. The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) plans to raze the building to make way for a parking lot that will accompany a new supermarket complex.


    "I built this studio from my designs," he says. "The roof alone was $68,000. I built the walls, but I contracted everything else."

    After almost nine years in the space, the studio has been totally rehabbed. It's equal parts work and living space, with a Jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom, and new appliances in the kitchen. When Dupree heard rumblings about the redevelopment plan, he got in touch with a real-estate agent, who estimated that its market value was $2.2 million. Dupree declined to disclose the amount the city offered him, but says that it was less than 30 percent of that appraised price.

    "They [proceed] to devalue the land through blight," Dupree says, "then file an eminent domain and say it's fair-market value after they give you an appraisal in a drive-by."

    Dupree says the PRA later offered to throw in an additional $40,000 for the content of the building — meaning, all of Dupree's work since the early '70s, when he was first featured in a major museum. "I have about 5,000 pieces of artwork in here," he says.

    Dupree estimates that having the work professionally moved could cost a quarter of a million dollars. "For them to say that the work isn't worth anything, my sweat equity isn't worth anything, and my business is not worth anything, that just threw me off the deep end, big time."

    Dupree says he didn't speak out earlier because he was hoping he could come to an acceptable agreement with the city. Now, he's formally contesting the condemnation.

    The office of district City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who sponsored the eminent-domain legislation, did not respond to requests for comment this week. A PRA spokesperson said the agency does not comment on cases that are being formally contested.

    Last week Dupree's family started a petition on Change.org to demand his deed be restored. Hundreds of Dupree's current and former students signed on almost immediately.

    "Artists are kind of outraged that the officials would treat me in this manner and point a finger at me and say, 'Who do you think you are?' Especially in a city that promotes itself in the arts," Dupree says. "They should at least respect my career, if not assist me in a more positive manner."

    Dupree draws a distinction between the type of manufactored gentrification that the planned supermarket would offer and the type that he has wrought, more organically, through years of hard work.

    "I moved to West Philadelphia in 1955 on Lancaster Avenue. I've come full circle. I'm back to revitalize the community. I'm the gentrification," he says. "They want to take it away from me, meaning they want it. They want to know what this is going to be worth in five years when Drexel comes in."

    "They weren't expecting a guy like me to be here — educated, with means, international reputation in my field, articulate, and knowing a lot of people." Protests are planned near City Hall and the artist's public work at Broad Street's FYE store, organized by the artist's supporters. "It's not just me anymore. It's in the hands of smart people putting projects together with this information, who are outraged and coming to the forefront."

    Here is the petition if you're interested in signing. Not sure how much good it will do though.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/jann...share_petition
    Last edited by orthophonic; 11-08-2013 at 09:53 AM.

  2. #2
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    Looks like he bought the property for $173k in 2005 and the city's appraised it at $343k. I understand that he's put a lot of work into the place, but $2.2 million? Something tells me he didn't complain about the 2014 estimated value when it came to property taxes. Let him keep the property and tax it at his estimated value. It's an overall win for the city.

    This isn't to say that the Horrible (sic) Jannie Blackwell isn't a thief, mind you. Only that the valuation of properties cuts both ways.

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    Public Nuisance Radical Ed's Avatar
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    Two Million? Have you seen it? It's a glorified warehouse/garage and it's attached to, and across the street from two condemned, abandoned buildings. If he paid 68K for that roof, he got reamed. It's more than gorgeous inside though, and he rents out rooms and studios in there as well. I can see at least 500K, but 2M? Check out this website that features the studio itself.

    https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/465491
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    Senior Member StrangeTanks's Avatar
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    I don't think it really matters what the building is worth. The point is that the guy doesn't want to sell it.

    I would like to hear a little bit more on exactly how the RDA seized his deed. Last I heard owning real property is a right that is protected by the constitution of the United States.

    Second, if this area is so blighted that there the owners believes its worth 300% more than what the city claims its worth, whats the point of putting a parking lot in that area?

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    Appetizer supersupper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StrangeTanks View Post
    I don't think it really matters what the building is worth. The point is that the guy doesn't want to sell it.
    He is not asking the city to rescind the seizure, he is asking for more money.
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    Junior Old Fart Jayfar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supersupper View Post
    He is not asking the city to rescind the seizure, he is asking for more money.
    No, per the petition, he is asking that the city return the property deed to him. In other words, to rescind the seizure.

    To:
    Jannie L. Blackwell, District 3 Council Member
    Michael Nutter, Mayor of Philadelphia
    Jannie L. Blackwell, 3rd District Council Member
    Darrell L. Clarke, Philadelphia City Council President
    Return the deed to the property owners of 3617 Haverford Ave., Philadelphia
    Sincerely,
    [Your name]
    “Guys like you I would dispatch with my roofing axe.” -- BootsywannabeACretin

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    Quote Originally Posted by StrangeTanks View Post
    I don't think it really matters what the building is worth. The point is that the guy doesn't want to sell it.

    I would like to hear a little bit more on exactly how the RDA seized his deed. Last I heard owning real property is a right that is protected by the constitution of the United States.

    Second, if this area is so blighted that there the owners believes its worth 300% more than what the city claims its worth, whats the point of putting a parking lot in that area?
    It does not matter if he wants to sell or not. Legal precedent has already been established that allows eminent domain to be used for redevelopment.

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    Senior Member StrangeTanks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jelly Roll View Post
    It does not matter if he wants to sell or not. Legal precedent has already been established that allows eminent domain to be used for redevelopment.
    As far as I can tell, this is not an eminent domain case. They don't seize your deed, they go through the courts and force you to sell.

    That's my understanding in any case.

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    Senior Member loveisnoise's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StrangeTanks View Post
    As far as I can tell, this is not an eminent domain case. They don't seize your deed, they go through the courts and force you to sell.

    That's my understanding in any case.
    All of the banter about this case from both sides has been about eminent domain, so unless I missed something that's exactly how it happened.

    They're using it everywhere. They don't even have to tell you the case is in court. They get an eminent domain through a court, then send you the paper work and tell you to pack your bags. From there the only right you have is to appeal the amount owed for the property-but you can't appeal the eminent domain.

    Even in case law where eminent domain was successfully appealed? The citizens lost. There was a famous case where GM got eminent domain agains an entire neighborhood to extend their factory. The neighborhood fought through appeals for decades, but GM already got approval to tear the buildings down while the case was appealed. After 30 or so years the citizens won... after the plant was already closed and the buildings were gone. So, they got a win to say eminent domain was wrong, no money, and thanks for the memories.

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    Default condemnation

    The City condemned this property 14 years ago. They only filed their declaration of taking recently. As a result, they only have to negotiate the price. They do not have to negotiate the sale.

    I own 3635 Haverford and 3637 Haverford which are in the same boat.

    The City can (and has) taken ALL the properties on this block already....all that is left is to figure out the price. This owner cannot stop it unfortunately as the condemnation happened 14 years ago.

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    Junior Old Fart Jayfar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ofeibush View Post
    The City condemned this property 14 years ago. They only filed their declaration of taking recently. As a result, they only have to negotiate the price. They do not have to negotiate the sale.

    I own 3635 Haverford and 3637 Haverford which are in the same boat.

    The City can (and has) taken ALL the properties on this block already....all that is left is to figure out the price. This owner cannot stop it unfortunately as the condemnation happened 14 years ago.
    That's more than a little interesting. How and from who did he buy the already condemned property from in 2005? Can someone legally sell a condemned property?

    City seizes Mantua artist's paradise to put up a parking lot :: Blogs :: The Naked City :: Philadelphia City Paper

    "When James E. Dupree bought the building that now houses his Mantua studio in 2005, it was a dilapidated garage and warehouse, fit for condemnation."
    “Guys like you I would dispatch with my roofing axe.” -- BootsywannabeACretin

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    Senior Member loveisnoise's Avatar
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    Exactly what I was thinking... this makes no sense.

    The change.org petition kept talking about eminent domain. Does any one know what is actually going on?
    Quote Originally Posted by Jayfar View Post
    That's more than a little interesting. How and from who did he buy the already condemned property from in 2005? Can someone legally sell a condemned property?

    City seizes Mantua artist's paradise to put up a parking lot :: Blogs :: The Naked City :: Philadelphia City Paper

    "When James E. Dupree bought the building that now houses his Mantua studio in 2005, it was a dilapidated garage and warehouse, fit for condemnation."

  13. #13
    Senior Member loveisnoise's Avatar
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    One other serious question. The property is one thing, but don't they also have to put a value on and pay him for the business? If the city took it over and someone rented it and had a 20 year lease I'd think they'd have to buy it out or be a landlord.

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    Public Nuisance Radical Ed's Avatar
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    If the city condemned the property, how was Dupree able to purchase it and not have to demolish the structure? Who sold him the property and who does he pay taxes to for living and running a business out of an already condemned building officially owned by the city of Philadelphia?
    As Confucious said... Sum ting wong.
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    Quote Originally Posted by loveisnoise View Post
    One other serious question. The property is one thing, but don't they also have to put a value on and pay him for the business? If the city took it over and someone rented it and had a 20 year lease I'd think they'd have to buy it out or be a landlord.
    The city does not have to pay for the business. As to your question about what happens with a leased property most commercial leases have a section that explains what will happen if the leased property is affected by an eminent domain taking.

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    With 50 of the 59 parcels in the redevelopment area comprised of either vacant lots or abandoned/unoccupied structures, I suppose I can understand why these blocks were targeted for eminent domain/redevelopment.

    http://www.phila.gov/pra/PDFs/121120...oardAgenda.pdf

    And, sure, having a supermarket in a community without access to one makes sense. However, combining 4 entire city blocks and making the majority of the newly combined parcel a gargantuan surface parking lot is insane. WTF?!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ofeibush View Post
    The City condemned this property 14 years ago. They only filed their declaration of taking recently. As a result, they only have to negotiate the price. They do not have to negotiate the sale.

    I own 3635 Haverford and 3637 Haverford which are in the same boat.

    The City can (and has) taken ALL the properties on this block already....all that is left is to figure out the price. This owner cannot stop it unfortunately as the condemnation happened 14 years ago.
    Nice

    You scoring a big profit on this one ?

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    Junior Old Fart Jayfar's Avatar
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    Just to add context, here's a google view of the 2 square blocks condemned:

    http://goo.gl/maps/bzWda

    and street view:

    http://goo.gl/maps/pHC1g
    “Guys like you I would dispatch with my roofing axe.” -- BootsywannabeACretin

  19. #19
    Senior Member loveisnoise's Avatar
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    What's the block of amazing homes with solar panels and free parking?! In this city I'm guessing PHA housing or some utopian senior center?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jayfar View Post
    Just to add context, here's a google view of the 2 square blocks condemned:

    http://goo.gl/maps/bzWda

    and street view:

    http://goo.gl/maps/pHC1g

  20. #20
    Public Nuisance Radical Ed's Avatar
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    As I said, it's really nice inside and has ridiculous square footage but it only has one main floor. Due to the location and buildings/houses that surround it, is it really worth 2.2 million as it sits?
    "Fearlessly the idiot faced the crowd..."
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