Speaking of Eminent Domain… City Looks to Seal the Deal on #1 Liquors

U View and #1 Liquor
Apparently, the city’s patience with #1 Liquors is wearing thin. After nearly a decade of begging, prodding, and cajoling tactics, councilmembers are starting to contemplate eminent domain proceedings on College Park’s most infamous homestead holdout. According to the Diamondback the city would like to acquire the parcel in order to create “a park”:

The council voted last night to try to buy the property or to try to get it condemned if its owner refuses to sell. Some View residents said they would miss the store’s convenient location and were skeptical of plans to create such a tiny park.

The lot is a questionable location for a new park seeing as the City-University partnership is creating the 5-acre North Gate Park just south of the liquor store where Paint Branch Stream Northgate District (looking towards campus)passes under Route 1. But the plan may be the city’s only real means to get rid of the squat one-story building in the emerging North Gate Development District. The store would be surrounded on three sides by major development in the area that includes the University View’s nearly complete complex and Mark Vogel’s planned 700-bed Varsity Student Housing project. The area is but one small glimmer of hope in College Park’s otherwise grim real estate environment. Perhaps the store owner would have been wise to take an offer for a ground floor retail spot in the University View’s new building. They would have had a captive audience of literally thousands of students in complexes either planned, approved, or already built.

Incidentally I just did a lengthy post at TheCityFix.com about eminent domain and a recent New York State court case that has catapulted the controversial issue back into the public spotlight. As I explain in the post, the tool can benefit communities, but it has several pitfalls. Councilwoman-elect Christine Nagle put it well in her quote in the Diamondback article where she expressed her disagreement with the city’s plan to remove businesses it “just doesn’t like”:

“We’re just starting Route 1 redevelopment,” Nagle said. “How many little parks are we going to have? Every time someone doesn’t make a deal?”

Full build out

19 thoughts on “Speaking of Eminent Domain… City Looks to Seal the Deal on #1 Liquors”

  1. Actually Ms Nagle’s comment is not valid. The City would be using Program Open Space funds to acquire the store. This money comes from the state and typically amounts to about $30,000 to $60,000 a year to buy property for a recreational use . With some luck you might be able to acquire a single property every 8 to 10 years if the property is small enough and doesn’t have redevelopment potential.

  2. The councilmembers who would “like” to keep No. 1 Liquors were the most vocal opponents of Lasick’s Liquors. They thought Lasick’s was an eyesore and wanted it gone long ago.

    The vote yesterday was nothing more than a final anti-Brayman vote; just as meaningless and misguided as their other anti-Brayman votes.

  3. Here is a great quote from David’s post on The City Fix.

    “Many have a hard time feeling sorry for the inevitable homestead holdouts that try to stand in the way of some projects. There are always those predictable stories of the 90 year old that has lived in the house for their whole life, but oftentimes holdouts are simply trying to extort as much money as possible. Property rights defenders should recognize that there is a fine line to be walked between reasonableness and outright obstructionism.”

  4. Good point on the nagle comment bob. i saw her comment as more of a “this is where it starts but where does it logically end” statement. What other heavy handed condemnation strategies are at the city’s disposal?

    I think the building is ugly as much as the next person and the parking in front is completely inconsistent with the vision to make that whole area a vibrant, pedestrian-oriented stretch filled with continuous ground floor retail. That being said, I don’t know that a park is going to be all that much better for vibrancy. More than likely it’ll be a highly visible hangout for vagrants. Students won’t use that park just as they won’t use North Gate Park except as a way to walk to campus. Meanwhile the the #1 liquor business owner and landowner will be pushed aside as profits and rents accumulate to the wealthier and better connected.

    It’s a shame college park has POS money that it can’t put to better use than blight reduction. There are so many communities around the state in dire need of community parks where there is actual unmet demand.

  5. Can I get my backwards McD’s drive-thru back?

    Ah, a “park.”

    The picture kinda says it all. The Coors Light delivery truck is nearly the same size as the store. What “park” can be put there?

    A big swing set that would launch drunken Cornerstone patrons into the middle of Rt. 1? I’d mention Town Hall as well, but I’m pretty sure they’d all hover by the front door and watch. And laugh.

    A giant slide that would launch drunken… See above.

    Oooh, A wishing well? “Andy! You Goonie!” See, I like this idea, ’cause I’ve always pretended that Sloth, Chunk, and Corey Feldman were hiding out under the steam grates in CP. This would just make my life.

    Yeah, I said it, Corey Feldman, not Mouth. ‘Cause Corey isn’t a real person. Sloth and Chunk are real. If they were fake, they’d have a reality show.

    I don’t even want #1 there, but what the hell is a park going to be?

    Giant merry-go-round? That would be cool. If spun fast enough it could launch drunken Corner… See above.

  6. Logically, removing blight starts at not spending City money and ends at spending City money, regardless of the source of the money. The parcel is about 5,500 square feet in size, the size of a typical residential property, and not too small for an urban pocket park. It could perhaps be a nice location for the proposed bike rental program.

  7. Yep, you read it correctly. http://www.gazette.net/stories/12032009/collnew181423_32538.php

    I’d imagine that Anuj Kapur and/or Annette Sargeant could make a good argument that the property is worth much more than that.

    Who is going to go to this park? The University View people aren’t, they’ll just stay on campus if they want to be outside. Lakeland has enough parks to entertain any families that want to go to one. Nobody from Berwyn is going to walk down Rt. 1 to visit a “pocket park.” Who wants to hang out next to Rt. 1 watching the traffic? That’s not even mentioning the draw it would have for criminals. It’s a terrible idea.

    A bike rental program sounds OK, are there links to any proposals for it? And would this space be used as a central hub/main office?

  8. The City doesn’t get to solely decide what the property is worth, that is the job of the appraisers and possibly the court. For tax purposes the property is appraised at about $350,000. The City’s offer is not $300,000, as one does not negotiate contracts in public. If an agreement is reached the City Council will have to aprove the agreement in public.

  9. One way around this is to let them stay, but force them to redesign the store that fits more into the overall plan. The building is hideous. Perhaps if they rebuilt it with brick , pushed the entrance to the sidewalk with parking in back, it would blend into the development. Or like someone else said, let them occupy ground floor space in one of the new buildings. I’m sure the owners are looking at the profits soon to come from so many of the new developments being built. But that doesn’t mean you can continue to be an eyesore.

  10. “Force them to redesign the store that fits more into the overall plan.”

    What legal mechanism would you propose to accomplish this? The city I believe has already thrown money at the property owner to improve the aesthetics of the building somewhat, but clearly they aren’t interested in doing anything voluntarily.

  11. ““Force them to redesign the store that fits more into the overall plan.”

    “What legal mechanism would you propose to accomplish this?””

    The same that would be used to condemn a building for reasons not including structural deficiencies?

    I’m not at all sure on the law, but wouldn’t it make just as much(if not more) sense to be able to force a building to look a certain way than to make it look like it just got razed by the city?

    Especially one that still has legal owners and occupants.

    I’m all over the place on this issue. I personally don’t want the store there. It looks like crap. But, so does the high rise behind it. Hand in glove, and all.

    I’d like to say that I’d support re-locating them, but at the same time I kinda feel like they’ve earned the jackpot location.

    I hope the council members that voted to force the store out feel a bit bad about taking away someone’s business. I also thank them for making CP look a lot better. When it happens.

    However, putting a park there is absurd.

  12. “What legal mechanism would you propose to accomplish this?”

    Easy. HOA’s do it all the time. Create an aesthetics zone where adjunct businesses can’t look starkly different than the rest. I don’t know. Call it a beautification zone or something. Or at least let the colors match. Stucco is cheap.

  13. I thought/heard that when they started the High rise development they told the developer that they already had the rights to the store. The city tried eminent domain on the houses on Yale Ave (Behind Bentleys, New parking garage) offering pennies on the dollar for the property. The owners had to threaten legal action to get them to pay what it was worth. Here’s an Idea–Concentrate more on traffic problems then bulling property owners. There has been a Liquor store in that spot for 35+ years,so one would think it’s one of the few places of business that has been profitable in that area.

  14. Wow. Kirk is clueless about the City’s acquistion of the two houses on Yale. The City bought the two small properties for almost $1.7 million. The City’s initial offer was well over $1 million. The property owners never threatened legal action (no basis at all for such a lawsuit), as the City filed the papers to initiate the legal action of condemnation after 12 months or more of attempted negotiation failed to achieve anything.

  15. Wow! That’s absurd. Sure, it’s an eyesore. How about giving the business owner some of the funding to fix his sign? How about planing some trees along the side of Rt 1 to give it some cover?

    Looks like College Park wants gentrification, not economic development.

    Maybe they should start by fixing up Rt 1. The road is littered with garbage, sign posts, ugly utility and light poles, wires everywhere… No number of parks will make Rt 1 look pretty until they clean up the trash.

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