‘A False Narrative’: Apex Owners File New Lawsuit in Prominent Domain Fight

PAWTUCKET, RI (WPRI) – The owners of the famous Apex building in Pawtucket try to push back the city’s efforts to acquire their land via a prominent estate, alleging the city singled them out and “tried to coerce them into relinquishing their properties in violation of the law.

A group of LLCs that own five plots of land along Interstate 95 in downtown Pawtucket filed an amended lawsuit in Rhode Island U.S. District Court this month, accusing the town and several local officials to interfere with their property rights and business operations.

On Wednesday, the landowners issued a dazzling statement, claiming to be the victims of an overzealous attempt by the city to illegally obtain their land through a prominent estate.

“It is very unfortunate for the taxpayers of Pawtucket to come to this, but Apex Development has been forced to file a complaint after years of cooperation with the city and attempting to enter into reasonable negotiations – an effort that has never been met that with harshness. and the baseless rhetoric of city councilors, ”Apex spokesman Bill Fischer said in a statement.

City officials quickly fought back, as Pawtucket Director of Commerce Jeanne Boyle – a defendant in the case – called the legal complaint “an unfortunate result of years of landlord efforts to misinform our community. through baseless accusations, stall tactics and obstructionism ”.

“Moreover, their highly irregular decision to register officials, including myself, as accused in this case simply shows that they are prepared to resort to personal attacks and threats to achieve their ends,” he said. Boyle added.

Court records show that the amended complaint, filed on April 14, is the latest development in an ongoing legal dispute between the companies and the city that dates back to January 2019.

But the disagreement has intensified significantly since October, when Mayor Donald Grebien announced plans to acquire the Apex land as part of the city’s efforts to redevelop the downtown area. He said at the time that “years of regular, cordial and good faith purchase negotiations have unfortunately failed.”

Grebien’s announcement follows the city’s unsuccessful attempt to buy the land to be part of the mega-development project known as Tidewater Landing, which will be anchored in a professional football stadium.

The Apex Land is a recognizable landmark in Rhode Island thanks to its owners’ pyramid-shaped department store, built in 1969 and visible from I-95. But the land is also known to be at the center of past efforts to redevelop the downtown area of ​​the state’s fourth largest city.

Prior to Tidewater Landing, the owners of the former Pawtucket Red Sox were looking to build a new, multi-million dollar stadium on the Apex Land. A deal was never made and negotiations between everyone involved collapsed, which ultimately helped the PawSox move the team north to Worcester, Massachusetts.

In a statement, Fischer said the Apex advisory team had “negotiated in good faith” and “put fair deals on the table.”

“The city’s narrative that we have implemented ‘blockade and obstructionism tactics’ just doesn’t hold water,” he added. “This is a false narrative that will not stand the test of time and stand the test of time in the courts.”

In the latest 69-page complaint, which demands a jury trial, Apex owners allege the city and its officials have prevented them from conducting private business on private land, causing them to lose millions of dollars in investment. Among other things, the owners also argue that their properties are not ravaged, despite the city’s efforts to suggest otherwise.

Pawtucket has yet to file a response to the complaint, according to a review of court documents. But Boyle described the owners as a group that consistently refuses to work in good faith with the city, which “has delayed much-needed investment in waterfront and downtown neighborhoods for far too long.”

Separately, the Pawtucket redevelopment agency filed its own lawsuit in January against the owners, alleging they illegally interfered with the city’s “legal right to conduct environmental testing as part of its due diligence.” , according to Boyle. The agency accuses the owners of agreeing to environmental testing, which they say is permitted under eminent domain law, only if the results are kept “strictly confidential.”

Boyle described the request as “just another dropout tactic and a false narrative.”

“While we are disappointed with the choices and the latest actions of the Owners Group, we remain committed to working with them in a transparent manner to find a solution that best serves the interests of the residents and taxpayers of Pawtucket,” Boyle said. .

Eli sherman ([email protected]) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.