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Superblock plans get a four-month extension

Baltimore's Board of Estimates on Wednesday approved a four-month extension of a land sale agreement between the city and developers of the Superblock, a West Side redevelopment project long tangled in legal challenges.

The five members of the spending board unanimously approved extending the Dec. 31 termination date on the agreement with Lexington Square Partners LLC through April 30, with the possibility of an additional eight months depending on progress.

Johns Hopkins, president of Baltimore Heritage, entered a formal protest over the board's decision to extend the deadline and keep the project alive.

"There are too many buildings with historical and civil rights heritage to be demolished," he said.

Hopkins also said the city and developer had not taken adequate measures to preserve the buildings in the Superblock area.

M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's quasi-public development arm, said that the buildings had been stabilized. He also held up architectural drawings showing that historic structures would be incorporated into the renovations.

"This is historic preservation," Brodie said. "This is preserving the character of the area."

Rev. C.D. Witherspoon, a community activist, called from the back of the spending board's chambers that civil rights activists had not been told the matter would come before the board.

Some civil rights leaders have said the Superblock plans fail to properly commemorate a sit-in that occurred at a former Read's Drugstore on the block.

"It is egregious to do this to the civil rights community," Witherspoon said.

City solicitor George Nilson said the city was set to go to court over a legal challenge to the plans on Jan. 6.

Julie.scharper@baltsun.com

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