Building owners drop suit over city condemnation

Mercy Medical Center to buy site for expansion

May 16, 2001|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Ending a federal lawsuit that claimed Baltimore abused its power to condemn property, the owners of a downtown law office building said yesterday they've agreed to sell their property and drop their lawsuit against the city.

Paul Kramer, an attorney who is co-owner of the 233 St. Paul Pl. office building, said he sent U.S. District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin notice yesterday that he will not pursue his lawsuit, which sought to block a condemnation ordinance passed May 7 by the City Council.

Kramer said he and the other owners of the 98-year-old, three- story building are dropping their lawsuit because they've agreed to sell the property to Mercy Medical Center for an undisclosed price.

The purchase will enable Mercy to build a center for cancer treatment and women's health programs. The council ordinance, which passed unanimously, was designed to help the hospital acquire enough property to expand.

"We are satisfied with our agreement with Mercy and the amount of the sale," said Kramer.

Last month, Kramer and co-owner Stuart Snyder complained that targeting their well-maintained building for condemnation was an abuse of the city's power of eminent domain because it didn't serve a public purpose.

Instead, they argued, the action played favorites among private entities - helping a large non-profit organization acquire the property of a small company.

Matt Vigil, owner of the Park Place Deli on the first floor of the building, said he's still angry that Mercy and the city are forcing him to close his business after nearly 12 years.

But he said his landlords have been very generous in offering him an undisclosed amount of compensation. "We're just going to close down," said Vigil. "If we set up somewhere else in the city, the city might come along and condemn us again."

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