“I want to decide when and if I sell my property, on my terms.”









Artist James Dupree is fighting Philadelphia’s dubious efforts to condemn his studio in order to transfer it to a new private owner that would build a supermarket and parking lot on the site. In November 2012, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) was authorized to acquire 17 properties to build a supermarket in Mantua.

Is this a good idea? Not quite, says Ilya Somin,

Especially when you factor in the cost of $2.75 million in taxpayer subsidies, this looks to be one of the many economic development takings that destroy more economic value than they create.

Dupree originally bought the building for $200,000 and spent considerable amount of time and money renovating it and making it into a viable and successful art center.

Transforming a broken-down garage and warehouse into a top-notch art studio was no easy feat.  “When I purchased the property, it was basically condemnable,” he said.  The roof leaked when it rained.  The plumbing and electrical were “next to nil.”

“I invested everything I owned into this property…I was basically broke,” Dupree remarked.  The property itself cost a little under $200,000.  Installing new electrical and plumbing: $60,000.  Fixing the roof was another $68,000.  Thousands more were spent on renovations, furnishings and appliances.

All of those investments paid off.  What was once a dilapidated building is now a pillar of the local community and worth $2.2 million.  His studio demonstrates what private redevelopment can accomplish.

And now, Philadelphia wants to steal it, offering at most $640,000.


“These eminent domain laws have been changed where they can go into these communities, seize their property, relocate the tenants for next to nothing, and then sell that land back to a private developer for a profit, under the guise of ‘the good of the community.’  I find this totally un-American.”

So, what’s a successful artist to do when a city wants to disregard the cultural and economic value of art and an art center, purchase his property for pennies and then turn it into a shopping mall and parking lot?

Fight, of course, both in and out of court.  To raise awareness, he’s partnering with the Institute for Justice and building coalitions to press the city to return his deed.  In one month, a petition on change.org has already garnered almost 2,000 signatures.

Nick Sibilla, of the Institute for Justice, has more here.

Yes, my friends, very little is as intellectually stimulating as property law. If you’d like to sign the petition in favor of Dupree, you may do so here.

2 comments on this post.
  1. Heather:

    Thank you for sharing! I live in the Philly area and hadn’t heard of this. Will do what I can to raise awareness and support.

  2. Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento:

    Hi Heather,
    You’re welcome, and thank you for sharing the news. I think if we get more signatures it would help. This is really outrageous, particularly given the low-ball amount the city is offering…pure exploitation.


Leave a comment