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Small business owners kill planned Baltimore redevelopment

When a state enters into an agreement to help develop land, many business owners in that area may cry foul. Some business owners may feel like their businesses will suffer if another piece of land is developed down the road with state resources. This was the case with a group of business owners in Baltimore, who effectively shut down the state of Maryland's long-planned redevelopment of 28 acres of commercial real estate as a mixed-use development for state workers, retail shops and living spaces.

A judge this week voided contracts granted by the state to developers for the $1.5 billion State Center project in Baltimore. The plan has been in the works for several years, and once it finally started it was planned to take 15 years to complete. It was planned to be a development for 3,500 state workers, along with retail and residential space.

The Baltimore Circuit Court judge ruled that the state violated competitive bidding laws and voided the contracts as a result. The state argued that it was disposing the state-owned land to the developer, but the plan actually called for the land being leased to the developer and then over time coming back under state ownership.

Downtown business owners have complained that the development would crush their small businesses, because many of them are patronized by state workers in the neighborhood. One woman, who owns a peanut shop, said she would have lost a third of her customers if state employees were moved to the planned development.

The group wants the state to focus on occupying vacant properties downtown to help the struggling area. It appears that the battle over the project is far from over, but the small business owners scored a big victory for now.

Source: Baltimore Sun, "Future of State Center in question after judge's decision," Steve Kilar, Jan. 17, 2013

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