Artist fighting city's claim on his property

MANTUA - November 25, 2013

James Dupree is a Philadelphia-born and internationally-recognized artist who is fighting for an 8600 square foot building in Mantua that he purchased in 2005.

When 63-year-old Dupree purchased the building nearly nine years ago, it was a dilapidated garage and warehouse. But he has since fully renovated it.

He has used the space to host art classes and workshops and houses at least 5,000 pieces of his own artwork.

Last December, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority seized the deed to his property, planning to make way for a parking lot and supermarket complex.

"They have bound and gagged me," said Dupree. "They have stolen my dreams and they are torturing my soul."

Dupree says a real estate agent has had the property appraised at about $2.2-million, but the city has offered him less than a third of that, and reportedly threw in an additional $40,000 for the contents.

Dupree says, "They do not recognize my talent, my education, my dedication to my craft and to my community."

Dupree's artwork has been displayed around the world. He says it would cost about a quarter million dollars just to have it moved.

While Action News was there, representatives from the Institute for Justice outside of Washington stopped by to work with James through grass roots advocacy.

Melinda Harring from the Institute for Justice explains, "A private developer should not be able to come in and take his property away from him through eminent domain."

"They're just going to come in and take my land against my will," says Dupree. "Because we're going to give you fair market value, but you have established the fair market!"

Dupree says there are existing petitions at demanding that the city return the deed to his property. In response, the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority has issued the following statement:

"The condemnation process affords a property owner the opportunity to make a case for a different level of compensation than the PRA's offer... Mr. Dupree's property is in that process, we do not comment on individual properties in the process."

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