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Judge allows 'Superblock' lawsuit to proceed

A Baltimore judge on Wednesday rejected an attempt by city officials to dismiss a multimillion lawsuit filed by the former developers of the so-called "Superblock."

"We're glad this ruling allows us to move this project forward," said Jason St. John, an attorney representing Lexington Square Partners, which is demanding more than $50 million after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake canceled their exclusive rights to the west-side property. "We need to stop the delays and move this project forward," St. John said.

The ruling by Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Julie R. Rubin means the lawsuit can proceed. A trial date has not yet been set.

Lexington Square Partners say they spent more than $7 million in their six-year effort to develop the site and were on the verge of securing financing to move ahead. The suit says city officials unfairly killed their deal with Baltimore.

"We respectfully disagree with the judge's ruling and expect to file a timely motion for reconsideration," said Kevin Harris, spokesman for the mayor's office. "This important west side parcel has been bogged down in meritless litigation to the detriment of the area and the city for far too long."

Citing numerous delays and city-approved extensions on the project, Rawlings-Blake in June declined to grant the developers another extension to come up with financing for the $152 million project.

The city entered into a sales agreement with Lexington Square Partners in 2007 after they won the right several years earlier to develop the property. Lexington Square Partners agreed to buy the site for $12.2 million, though the developer effectively would have to pay only $2.85 million of that price.

But the project was slowed by litigation, and it wasn't until December that the development was awarded $22.1 million in tax breaks, which Lexington Square Partners said it needed to secure financing. The tax breaks were awarded after the Maryland Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit filed by Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, who argued that the plan failed to preserve historic buildings.

The site is bounded roughly by Lexington, Howard and Fayette streets and Park Avenue. Under the plan, the project would have had about 300 apartments, more than 200,000 square feet of retail space and a parking garage for 650 vehicles.

City officials say they're considering issuing a request for new proposals early next year.

Luke.Broadwater@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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