West Philly artist keeps studio as city drops plan to seize it for grocery store development

 Philadelphia artist James Dupree succeeded in preventing the city from seizing his studio in Mantua. (Emma Lee/for Newsworks, file)

Philadelphia artist James Dupree succeeded in preventing the city from seizing his studio in Mantua. (Emma Lee/for Newsworks, file)

An artist in the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia has blocked the city from seizing his studio through eminent domain.

Several years ago, James Dupree bought an auto repair shop at 36th and Haverford and converted it into an art studio with spaces for classes, storage, and housing.

The studio is on a block that is mostly abandoned. The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority seized the entire block through eminent domain to prepare it for development into a supermarket.

Mantua is considered a “food desert,” with no fresh groceries marketed within walking distance.

After legal appeals and a public campaign by Dupree, the PRA has ended proceedings to condemn the studio.

“While we have won a significant battle we remain committed to the development of the Mantua community, and are confident the Mantua still houses adequate land for whatever development the PRA plans,” said the Dupree family in a prepared statement.

In his own prepared statement, PRA director Brian Abernathy said that legal costs of fighting Dupree’s appeals make the project impossible, and “the inability to acquire Mr. Dupree’s property puts the prospect of bringing fresh food to this community at serious risk.”

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