A Baltimore judge ruled this week that she will not enforce her decision to dismiss a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by the former developers of the "Superblock" until an appellate court rules on the case.
City officials expressed disappointment with the ruling, which they said could further slow development of the long-stalled project on Baltimore's west side.
"It's always frustrating to me when the legal process is protracted and it prevents meaningful development in the city," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said.
This month, Baltimore Circuit Judge Pamela J. White threw out the $50 million suit, saying the city properly ended its deal with Lexington Square Partners when its contract for the land expired. The developers contend the city illegally terminated their exclusive rights to build on the property, and they are appealing the decision.
In a statement issued by its attorney Jason St. John, Lexington Square Partners said it is confident the Court of Special Appeals will conclude it maintains the right to develop the Superblock, and that the city wrongfully terminated its contractual rights.
Citing numerous delays and city-approved extensions on the project, Rawlings-Blake declined last June to grant the developers another extension to come up with financing for the $152 million project. Lexington Square Partners say they've 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 when city officials halted the project.
In a ruling this week, White wrote that she would allow the developers to appeal her ruling before enforcing it.
"It's effectively the same as a stay. It's deferring the impact until the litigation is over," said City Solicitor George Nilson.
Nilson said he believes the city could legally solicit new bids for the property, but the pending appeal might deter prospective bidders.
"We are free to put the property out to bid, but there's a chilling effect that this litigation is pending," he said.
The "Superblock" site is bounded roughly by Lexington, Howard and Fayette streets and Park Avenue. Rawlings-Blake has said she is considering breaking up the site into smaller plots of land on which multiple developers could build.