City “carves out” disputed land to jumpstart grocery store

The city has developed a new approach to pressure Rite Aid pharmacies to withdraw a restrictive covenant on a parcel of Northwest Baltimore land that is stalling a new ShopRite grocery store.

Work around the parcel.

The Board of Estimates yesterday approved a plan by the Baltimore Development Corp. to “carve out” the 0.4 acres of disputed land and sell the rest of the 5.6-acre parcel to an affiliate of Klein’s ShopRite.

The land – owned by the city but retaining a restrictive covenant that prohibits locating a pharmacy on the site – would then be cordoned off from construction of the rest of the ShopRite supermarket and pharmacy.

Rite Aid, a Pennsylvania-based chain with 44 outlets in Baltimore, has demanded $600,000 from the city to release the covenant. The city has made a counteroffer of $15,000.

A Temporary Solution

“We’re pleased a temporary solution has been reached to finally get this project started,” Preston Greene, president of the Howard Park Civil Association, said today. Lisa Winnick, associate counsel for Rite Aid Corp., did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Greene said the community is still planning to mount a boycott of Rite Aid pharmacies if the company does not reach a settlement with the city.

The long-term solution, according to Greene, is to condemn the covenant at 4629 Liberty Heights Ave. Earlier this week, the City Council unanimously passed a measure allowing condemnation to proceed.

Waiting for 14 Years

The Howard Park community has been seeking a full-service grocery store since 1999 when Super Pride closed its doors. The BDC, acting for the city, assembled land for the store over a period of 10 years.

But when the BDC purchased the former Rite Aid property for $1.1 million, it did not get a “free and clear” title – an oversight that came back to bite the city when Rite Aid refused to remove the covenant without a sizable payment.

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  • AuthorShereeseM

    I hope Rite Aid finds a way to punish the city for attempting to circumvent the covenant. Rite Aid’s covenant was entered into as an “arms length” and “good faith” transaction. As such, they are entitled to be compensated for what seeming is a good piece of property. $15,000.00 is a laughable sum for a property that’s in demand by city residents. Perhaps had Baltimore made a less insulting offer, everyone could achieve a favorable outcome. In the end, city planners are acting like thieves and the behavior should be frowned upon, not embraced by the community. How would residents like it if the city took their homes by building very closely around their dwelling?  

  • Jon Schladen

    Good on the City of Baltimore. It is a very neat and creative way of managing the situation. Rite Aid did indeed have a claim on the property, but in the final analysis the claim of the residents is stronger. Howard Park is an area undergoing rapid change. Citizen groups are becoming active and coalescing around common needs–having a full service grocery is one of those needs. 
    Rite Aid, I believe, was not thinking clearly when it countered the city’s offer with $600,000. Yes, they have been hurting lately, stock prices have fallen, but to try and make up for their stock performance on the backs of a community trying to turn itself around? It’s not going to win any good neighbor awards and in the end it will hurt their reputation much more than the infusion of $600,000 would have helped their financial position. And I truly cannot believe that’s even what they were thinking! Maybe not thinking is more to the point. 

  • laurends

    The need to ensure that citizens have access to a supermarket convienent to their neighborhood supercedes Rite Aid’s need to hold on to restrictive covenant. Howard Park and numerous other Baltimore communities have lived in a “food desert” for far too long. This is a matter of public health.

    Lauren Siegel

  • Matthew Riesner

    We wouldn’t have this problem if we didn’t over zone and over regulate business in this city/state/country. In most urban places in the world you can purchase your food in large markets made up of many vendors selling what they have on the streets. We do have farmers markets but we lack real 7 day, large, diverse, urban markets that have many buyers and sellers. Many of what we call “markets” in this city started out that way but are no longer like that (they have become too structured and some have simply become over-glorified food courts). I feel like in places northwest, there would be a great benefit to the community by having a real largely unregulated market with many vendors selling food.

  • Cindy Walsh

    I am going to be a devil’s advocate for what most people probably think is a good thing…..the Shop Rite. This is yet another grocery chain. When it comes to food we want to be building and staffing people in local food distribution. There was a great article about an entrepreneur that bought a bus and converted it to a rolling fresh food mart for communities with food deserts. He did it not being interested in profit-margins but in getting good food to people in need….and he is successful.

    Shop Rite may be getting a bad rap from me because I have only been in a few, but they had the worst produce and food quality because they are working for profits beyond the low prices. Please elect politicians who are more interested in growing our communities from the grassroots up and not just to move one chain store after another into the city. Do you know that only a handful of national corporations own all these national chain stores? It is what is impoverishing neighborhoods!

  • trueheart4life

    FLASH – Apr. 5, 2013: Rite Aid is planning to go to court to STOP the supermarket construction in an attempt to force the City to pay their outrageous demand!!! I’ll be protesting in from of the Liberty Heights Av Rite Aid store tomorrow at 11am — Join Me!!!

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