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Little Italy restaurants join State Center suit

A group of restaurant owners in Little Italy have joined a lawsuit that seeks to halt the $1.5 billion redevelopment of State Center, scheduled to be the subject of a hearing in Baltimore City Circuit Court on April 6.

Owners of Da Mimmo’s, Sabatino’s, Chiapparelli’s, Caesar’s Den and Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry Shop filed a petition Monday to add their businesses to a list of more than a dozen downtown property owners suing the state to stop the project.

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 17, 2010, says the state Department of General Services did not seek competitive bids when it lined up master developers for the project in 2005.

The suit also claims that if the 15-year redevelopment moves forward as planned, creating 1.5 million square feet commercial and office space near Preston Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, it will negate the central business district and other city businesses, already struggling because of the recession with high vacancy rates.

Opponents of the State Center project also object to the sale of up to $314 million in tax increment financing bonds to help underwrite construction at the site. TIF bonds are taxpayer-backed financing for private development projects.

The addition of Little Italy business owners moves the argument to halt State Center east of the Inner Harbor.

“We’ve invested heavily in our restaurants and in this city,” said Mary Ann Cricchio, president of the Little Italy Restaurant Association and owner of Da Mimmo’s, in a statement.

“Downtown and Little Italy are already suffering enough in this economy. This ill-conceived project will only harm us and downtown more, not to mention wasting our tax dollars,” she said.

Maria Vaccaro, owner of the popular pastry shop on High Street, agreed.

“The state doesn’t have any money for what we need, but they want to build themselves expensive new buildings anyhow,” she said in a statement.

A hearing on a motion to dismiss the lawsuit is scheduled for early next month.

Caroline Moore, CEO of Ekistics LLC, the master developer of State Center, has said the lawsuit is without merit. The group filed a motion to dismiss in mid-January.

Moore did not return a phone call for comment Monday.

The State Center project was expected to break ground this year, but is on indefinite hold because of the lawsuit, a state economic development official said in January.

4 comments

  1. Why is the state taking jobs and businesses away from the city for their pet projects that they can other sites to b uild their buildings. Downtown is going to be a desert. Do they people who are running this state, want to make the working middle class, the long running businesses to stop functioning, in order or them to continue to prosper while other become a “ward” of the political wheel that is killin g this city, unless it is a government job, or contruction of our continous. overcrowded highways and pot hole streets! We pray that these businesses win their fight.

  2. Aren’t these some of the same people who were against Harborplace for exactly the same reasons

  3. This is so unbelievably infuriating. State Center was set to begin construction in the next month or so, bring needed jobs to the city. This is going to turn into another “Super Block.” Another project that is much talked about, but remains idle for years. This is the type of project everybody should be getting behind. Transit Oriented Development and urban redevelopment should be a top priority. The nation is looking at this project, if it ends up failing or becomes too difficult we will remain stuck in 20th century development patterns. This is an example a of a few trying to gain at the expense of many.

  4. Timing is everything, Little Italy Meat Ball Subs at Camden Yards and the restaurant joins the law suit. Where have you been for 5 years? On the eve of the ground breaking 9 communities are sent packing. Get out of the way and let this project proceed.

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