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Boston Mayor Thomas Menino versus Vornado Realty

Most Boston real estate lawyers understand the word "eminent domain" to mean that the government plans to take over property with an economic development purpose.

And while this is generally understood to relate to the building of some public necessity or perhaps public transit, the principle is simple: the government can condemn private property for an economic development.

But the city of Boston is now using the tactic of eminent domain in an alleged hardball tactic against one of the city's most prominent developers.

And Boston real estate lawyers are seeing right through the plan.

"If it looks like [the eminent domain suit is] being driven by some hardball negotiations with some developer, the courts will be less receptive," said one Boston real estate lawyer.

The mayor of Boston. Thomas Menino, recently sent a letter to Steven Roth, chairman of Vornado Realty Trust. In his letter, Mayor Menino threatened to have the city of Boston seize land from a Vornado-led group due to the fact that the company hadn't built on the property in a timely manner.

For most Boston real estate lawyers, this is certainly a new way of exercising eminent domain. Essentially, it seeks to have the city condemn a property for the reason that the property may be a potential eyesore. And while this goes against the traditional notions of eminent domain, can such process be used to force a developer to build?

Surely, Boston real estate lawyers will be debating that question for the next while.

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