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Mayor: A 'terrible decision' on Read's drugstore

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she was "frustrated and disappointed" that the city's preservation committee had voted to temporarily add a former Read's drugstore to a list of historical landmarks, a move that will halt demolition for at least six months.

"It's unacceptable to throw away a good compromise," said Rawlings-Blake following the city's spend board meeting Wednesday. "The commission made a terrible decision."

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The city's Commission for Historical and Architectural preservation voted yesterday to grant temporary landmark status to the West Baltimore building because it was the site of a 1955 lunch counter sit-in that impacted the national civil rights movement.

Rawlings-Blake had announced a deal last month with developer Lexington Square Partners to preserve two exterior walls and work them into the new project.

The commission's decision stymies progress on the already long-delayed redevelopment of the area known as the Superblock. The $150 million project will bring jobs and economic growth to West Baltimore, developers say.

Rawlings-Blake criticized the commission for slowing work on the project. The commissioners, she said, don't live in neighborhoods were residents lack jobs and don't understand the importance of creating jobs on the Westside.

"We can't continue to have benign neglect," she said. "If we do the same thing, we're going to have benign neglect."Earlier this week, Councilman Carl Stokes, a likely candidate for mayor, and Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke called for the commission to preserve the former drugstore.

The building's legacy is "too important to be bulldozed," Clark said in a statement.

"This isn't just about Baltimore's history, this is part of our nation's history and we have an opportunity to make sure this story doesn't get lost," Stokes said in a statement.

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