Take this as one of your semi-regular opportunities to say, “Fuck you, John Paul Stephens”:
James Dupree is a world-renowned artist and native son of Philadelphia, who is about to see his art studio turned into a grocery store, thanks to the rubber-stamp review that passes for judging when his city exercises the power of eminent domain.
James’ artistic accomplishments are truly awesome. He has five paintings in the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Others can be found in the National Museum of Art in Cardiff, Wales; the Schomberg Museum in New York; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts; and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
You can see the Philadelphia Museum of Art from James’ studio. It is located in the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia, where James grew up. The studio was a dilapidated warehouse when he purchased it for a little under $200,000. He spent $60,000 installing new electrical equipment and plumbing, $68,000 on roof repairs, and thousands more on renovations, furnishings and appliances.
The investment paid off, for James and for Mantua. What was once a dead, abandoned building is now alive and bustling with activity. James has hosted and taught art classes at his studio and has plans to start a mentorship program in order to give artists an environment where they “can create serious work and receive the support and freedom to explore new ideas.”
Dupree Studios is as much of a part of Mantua as James Dupree. It is a monument to the kind of creativity, hard work and dedication that has always been associated with the American spirit.
The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority has decided that this isn’t good enough. They want to lowball Dupree, bulldoze the building he restored and put a grocery store and a parking lot there. Pennsylvania strengthened its laws protecting citizens from eminent domain. But the PRA seized his home four days before the law took effect.
Think about that. When this state tried to put the kibosh on this sort of nonsense, the authorities in Philadelphia went on a shopping spree to make sure they stole people’s building while they still could.
Now two judges have basically said, “meh”. There is still a chance to save his studio through political pressure on the local government. But this shouldn’t be necessary. It wouldn’t be necessary if five assholes in robes had not decided that forcing Person A to sell to Person B constituted “public use”.