City ordered to pay $219,000 for site

Offer of $127,000 led to store owner's suit

April 19, 2002|By Nora Achrati | Nora Achrati,SUN STAFF

A city Circuit Court jury has awarded a displaced property owner from Baltimore's west-side redevelopment zone about $90,000 more than what the city offered when he left his building a year ago.

Baltimore Development Corp. offered Hippodrome Hatters owner Lou Boulmetis $127,000 for his four-story brick building at 15 N. Eutaw St.

The buyout - a condemnation acquisition that falls under the city's eminent domain authority - is part of the city's $350 million plan to acquire and redevelop property near the Hippodrome Theater.

Unhappy with the city's offer, Boulmetis contested its appraisal and hired a private appraiser, who valued the property at $219,000.

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury agreed with Boulmetis' appraiser April 10, 13 months after Boulmetis moved out of the building.

"It's very gratifying, it's a big load off our mind," Boulmetis said. "We don't feel like we won the lottery, we just feel like we got what was due."

The property is one of about 127 that the city is condemning on the west side. Many will be demolished to make room for new apartments and shops. The city is required by law to obtain appraisals from two evaluators and offer the higher value to the property owner.

City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr. said 10 to 12 property owners have contested the city's offers. Of the condemnation trials held, Zollicoffer said, jury awards have usually been closer to the city's appraisal.

"I think it's an aberration," Zollicoffer said of the $90,000 differential in the Boulmetis case.

Zollicoffer attributed the jury's decision to the family's long history in the building. Boulmetis' grandfather, a Greek immigrant, bought the hat shop in 1930, when the Hippodrome Theater across the street was in its heyday.

"I think there was a sympathy factor there," Zollicoffer said.

John C. Murphy, Boulmetis' lawyer, said that the building was well-maintained and that the Boulmetises had made improvements to the inside over the years.

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