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Debate Over Baltimore’s Historic Read’s Drug Store Rages On

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It was the site of a historic student sit-in. Now, decades later, the fight over what to do with the Read’s Drug Store building rages on between the city and a civil rights icon.

Monique Griego has more from both sides of the controversy.

Tensions reached a boiling point as activists and the city faced off.

The group, led by civil rights icon Dr. Helena Hicks, came to protest what they believe is a plan to destroy the historic former Read’s Drug Store on Howard and Lexington streets.

“We have a city administration that doesn’t care, [isn't] interested in that, sees it as a piece of property,” Hicks said.

Back in 1955, Hicks and a group of Morgan State students staged a sit-in at the drug store. It worked and paved the way for desegregation.

The now abandoned building is owned by the city, which has plans to redevelop it. But for the past few years, Hicks has fought to stop the project, saying it doesn’t do enough to preserve the site and could even see it demolished.

“This is all we have left of our involvement with the civil rights movement, which is a visible symbol,” Hicks said.

But the city sees the situation much differently.

“There are no plans to demolish Read Drug Store,” said Caron Brace with the mayor’s office.

Brace says while initial details varied, the building is not in danger of being torn down. Brace says the city has invested nearly $600,000 to replace the roof and stabilize the structure to get it ready for renovations and those plans include preserving the building, as well as commemorating the historic moment Hicks was a part of.

“The mayor is wholeheartedly committed to preserving all of the city’s civil rights history,” Brace said.

The city says ongoing litigation with the developer has halted renovations.

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