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The Dripby Mark Reutter4:54 pmMar 14, 20130

City “carves out” disputed land to jumpstart grocery store

The city has developed a new approach to pressure Rite Aid pharmacies to withdraw a restrictive covenant on a parcel of Northwest Baltimore land that is stalling a new ShopRite grocery store.

Work around the parcel.

The Board of Estimates yesterday approved a plan by the Baltimore Development Corp. to “carve out” the 0.4 acres of disputed land and sell the rest of the 5.6-acre parcel to an affiliate of Klein’s ShopRite.

The land – owned by the city but retaining a restrictive covenant that prohibits locating a pharmacy on the site – would then be cordoned off from construction of the rest of the ShopRite supermarket and pharmacy.

Rite Aid, a Pennsylvania-based chain with 44 outlets in Baltimore, has demanded $600,000 from the city to release the covenant. The city has made a counteroffer of $15,000.

A Temporary Solution

“We’re pleased a temporary solution has been reached to finally get this project started,” Preston Greene, president of the Howard Park Civil Association, said today. Lisa Winnick, associate counsel for Rite Aid Corp., did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Greene said the community is still planning to mount a boycott of Rite Aid pharmacies if the company does not reach a settlement with the city.

The long-term solution, according to Greene, is to condemn the covenant at 4629 Liberty Heights Ave. Earlier this week, the City Council unanimously passed a measure allowing condemnation to proceed.

Waiting for 14 Years

The Howard Park community has been seeking a full-service grocery store since 1999 when Super Pride closed its doors. The BDC, acting for the city, assembled land for the store over a period of 10 years.

But when the BDC purchased the former Rite Aid property for $1.1 million, it did not get a “free and clear” title – an oversight that came back to bite the city when Rite Aid refused to remove the covenant without a sizable payment.

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