By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun
9:35 PM EDT, June 29, 2011
City officials have granted a second six-month extension to the developers behind West Baltimore's $150 million Superblock project.
City officials signed a letter last week extending the deadline on a land disposition agreement with the developers Lexington Square Partners to Dec. 31, and their actions were noted by the city's spending board Wednesday. Otherwise, the developers would have lost their exclusive rights to negotiate on the city-owned property.
In the letter, the developers touted key decisions from the city's Commission on Historic and Architectural Preservation and the Urban Design and Review Panel. They plan to spend the next six months lining up businesses to move into the mixed-use project and choosing a general contractor, according to the letter.
M.J. "Jay" Brodie, president of the Baltimore Development Corporation, said the developers had achieved a series of victories in the past six months and that design plans called for the much of the facades of the historic buildings – many of which date to the 19th and early 20th-centuries – to be preserved.
Civil rights activists and historic preservationists have charged that plans for the project fail to substantially preserve the historic structures. Civil rights activists have been particularly dismayed over plans for a former Read's drugstore that was the site of a historic sit-in led by Morgan State students. Developers have promised to retain two external walls of the building, which has been renovated many times and is in poor condition.
Helena Hicks, a retired professor who participated in the sit-in, told the Board of Estimates that she was not satisfied with plans to erect a marker about the historic event outside the building.
"I couldn't get into Read's in 1955, and now you won't let me inside in 2011," Hicks said.
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