By James Dupree
Last June, Liberty & Law readers were first introduced to the fight to save Dupree Studios, my art studio, from being seized through eminent domain by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA). The city wanted to take my 8,600-square-foot studio and replace it with a grocery store and parking lot.
But Dupree Studios is not blighted, and it is not for sale. Thanks to the Institute for Justice and the community support we generated, we defeated this abuse of eminent domain. In December, the PRA dropped its condemnation proceedings to acquire my property, and after years of fighting the system, I get to keep my studio that houses more than 40 years of my life’s work.
I found out two years ago that Philadelphia wanted to seize my studio and have spent every day since then fighting the city. I accepted every media interview, invited the community into the studio and built a strong grassroots coalition. The fight was long, intense and, at times, seemed hopeless. IJ constantly encouraged me, helped me refine my strategy and would not let me give up.
The PRA said one of the reasons it abandoned its efforts to take my property was the media storm IJ helped create. The city could not ignore me. I refused to be silenced. I knew my rights. And IJ supported me to the end.
My victory proves that you can beat city hall. This win for the arts community and for property rights puts cities across the nation on notice: Citizens will not allow their properties to be taken unjustly through eminent domain.
I would like to invite Liberty & Law readers to visit Dupree Studios so I may personally thank you. Also, please check www.savedupreestudios.org for details about a victory party in the spring. I hope my victory is used as a tool to stop eminent domain abuse across the U.S. With IJ’s help, we saved Dupree Studios. IJ and its supporters have my eternal gratitude.
James Dupree is a prominent artist in Philadelphia. Five of his paintings are included in the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.