April 29, 2010

1922 Withdrawn

Community Three Development withdrew its application for 1922 Third Street.  As we wrote before, the developer proposed renovating and expanding the historic main house, renovating the historic carriage house, and constructing a new townhouse on the south side of the lot.

The proposal was set to go before the Historic Preservation Review Board last Thursday, but the developer, while at the meeting, withdrew his proposal and the board ended discussion on it.

In preparation for the board meeting, the Historic Preservation Office issued this staff report critiquing the proposal from a historic preservation standpoint.  One of the most significant suggestions was that the developer remove the “hyphen” section connecting the main house with the proposed townhouse, a concept alteration that would require a zoning variance.  Receiving a zoning variance is by design a costly and protracted process that’s not guaranteed to succeed.

In an email to us, the developer stated that due to these various issues, ranging from some neighborhood opposition to unresolved zoning issues, they could not proceed with their plan.

Regarding the politics of the proposal, the developer wrote:

[T]he economic and physical constraints inherent in the redevelopment of this site require all participants to contribute to a solution that benefits the greater whole, and in this case, we unfortunately found that certain stakeholders were unwilling to do so. We will potentially revisit this project when local pressures realign, but it may be very difficult for progress while these differences remain irreconcilable.

Through this process, we were surprised to the degree to which the developer reduced his ambitions, but ultimately the business of housing is a business driven by public tastes, local regulation, construction methods, and— above all— economics.  If a proposal is financially impractical, it will not get built, unless it is built at a loss as a pet project of a wealthy financier.

Somebody will eventually buy the house, though maybe not soon.  For it to remain a single-family house, as many want it, a potential owner must be able to afford replacing the roof, gutting the interior, building a new kitchen and bathrooms, replacing the wiring, replacing the plumbing, installing insulation, replacing many of the floors, installing a new furnace, replacing much of the drywall, fixing the foundation, and repairing the carriage house— renovations that will likely run near a million dollars, if not more, on top of the sale price.

A condo project with fewer units (and without a townhouse) could still succeed, but the reduced number of units will likely exclude an affordable housing component (only required of projects with 10 or more units).  Furthermore, those fewer units will have to be sold at higher prices to justify the renovation costs.

The neighborhood opposition (far from universal, mind you) unwittingly set a new entry criterion for purchasing the property: if you want to live at 1922 Third Street, you must be a very wealthy person.

* * *

What do you think?  Are you glad or are you disappointed that the proposal was withdrawn?

Categories: 1922 Third Street, Development Projects, Historic Preservation
Tags: , ,

19 Replies

  1. Wow, that development proposal is about as good as one could expect for the site, and it went down in flames.

    I guess with rising property values in the area something will eventually happen, but I doubt it will be better than what was proposed. Meanwhile, the building deteriorates further.

    What a shame.

    Jake - April 29, 2010 @ 2:21 pm
  2. Truly a shame…

    Flagler Pl NW - April 29, 2010 @ 4:07 pm
  3. Typical, and exactly what I was afraid would happen. Guess the nitpickers got what they wanted.

    Neil - April 29, 2010 @ 4:40 pm
  4. This would have been such a cool project – I hope everyone plans to hold their elected representatives who let this go down in flames accountable…

    2nd Street NW - April 29, 2010 @ 6:44 pm
  5. Unbelievable! Here was a chance to reverse decline, improve the whole neighborhood, pull in more tax revenue for the District, and keep historical character, and we let it slip away! How does this happen??

    Jeff - April 29, 2010 @ 7:23 pm
  6. What a shame. It seems hard to imagine a better solution than this, when the alternative may very well be that the building gets demolished by neglect.

    There are few people who would spent the money to renovate this as a single-family home, and even fewer who might want to do so even if they had the money, since the interior no longer has any original details. There’s nothing to be saved.

    This proposal sounds like about as good as anyone could hope for, and a few people who can’t see beyond the ends of there noses shot it down.

    Jamie - April 30, 2010 @ 9:51 am
  7. My role was as the broker representing the developer in the acquisition of this property. As someone who lives a few blocks away and manages a lot of real estate transactions in the neighborhood, I see this as a significant loss in terms of what could have been smart revitalization of that corner, as well as the opportunity to have had the clout of a project by an exceptionally high quality architect and developer.

    I attended many of the meetings through the due diligence process and I have to say, it is unfortunate that people who were vocally opposed to the project were there at the meetings as well, while supporters did not have much of a presence.

    Suzanne Des Marais - April 30, 2010 @ 10:09 am
  8. I feel as though it wasn’t just the developer that lost something on this one, but our community as a whole. We elect our local representatives to help build a better, safer and more fruitful community, and we elect them not only to represent our communties’ views and opinions, but to push for what is in our collective best interest. It is apparent this view was missing during 1922’s approval process. I don’t think we should just bow our heads and say “shoot, maybe in a couple years”. Our elected representitives should be held accountable.

    I also believe the HPO was completely off base with its report. The ‘open space’ comment is suburban-style thinking. This site is less than a quarter mile from the Metro and located in the heart of an urban neighborhood. The “hyphen” as they call it was not a significant component of the plan, but it, as well as the rest of the historic-in-style, complimentary components (additional townhouse, expanded house, carriage house, etc.) are what were needed for the developer to justify redevelopment. Why is that so hard to understand? Why do others believe that allowing the building the rot for years is a better alternative? My personal belief is that our elected representatives and the HPO staff played chicken with the developer… and lost. As a result, the whole community lost.

    bamoll - April 30, 2010 @ 10:51 am
  9. Sad, I guess that historic quality of blight overrules what was probably the best outcome for this property. Looks like the neighborhood will have to wait until the building collapses for anything to happen now.

    Now sure about the neighborhood opposition, but here’s the hprb blight supporters http://planning.dc.gov/planning/cwp/view,a,1284,q,570734.asp

    Out of curiosity, what were gripes of the opposition.

    TCres - April 30, 2010 @ 10:55 am
  10. well, myla moss is sitting at home, sipping a glass of wine, happy that she shot this down. i hope she’s pleased with herself.

    the people of her SMD should remember that she had a starring role in this saga when the next election rolls around.

    IMGoph - April 30, 2010 @ 12:03 pm
  11. Myla Moss will never get another vote from me. I am infuriated at this outcome. I can only hope someone who is not reflexively anti-development runs against her next time, I will be an adamant supporter if they do.

    eric - April 30, 2010 @ 12:10 pm
  12. I’m not so sure it’s fair to characterize Ms. Moss as “reflexively anti-development” when she in fact was supportive of much of the proposal.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if HPO’s recommendation to remove the “hypen” section between the main house and the townhouse was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Removing the hyphen would essentially require a costly, protracted zoning variance that I think few developers are willing to stomach, especially for a project of such a relatively small size.

    Eric Fidler - April 30, 2010 @ 12:24 pm
  13. i’m sorry eric but she led the charge to vote not to support this proposal. that is infuriating. frankly its the HPRB’s job to be a pain in the ass, it is myla’s job to advocate for the community not to stand in the way of improvement.

    eric - April 30, 2010 @ 12:29 pm
  14. I am also very disappointed with the outcome of this project. I think the developer’s proposal would have delivered a high-quality project that would enhance the neighborhood and add value. Almost anything would be better than what currently sits on the property now, but the developer actually took the time and effort to come up with a visually appealing project while working with the community to gather input. This type of commitment is rare for projects of this size in the real estate development world.

    How did the redevelopment of the property at 6th & T (that is now condos) ever get built? Considering the amount of scrutiny that the 1922 project had to endure, I can’t imagine that any new development will ever occur in our neighborhood again. Sometimes we have to give a little, to get a little. In this case, I think we would have gotten a lot.

    AP - April 30, 2010 @ 2:31 pm
  15. I don’t think much is going to change at HPRB as long as Tersh Boasberg is chair. An amiable enough fellow, but he runs the HPRB as his personal fiefdom.

    Paul - April 30, 2010 @ 2:59 pm
  16. As the current owner of 1922 , I am not surprised that Historic Preservation and the ANC prevented this project from moving forward. Mr. Epstein is a Developer. He wants to get the most per square foot that he can.

    He has cancelled the sale, perhaps thinking he can wait, come back later and offer a lowball price. (Don’t you dare!)

    Mr. Epstein has described this property as in poor condition and needing a million dollars to renovate. NOT TRUE!!!! In fact, we have several independent estimates that the rehab will be between $200,000 and $300,000, depending upon how green you want the building to be. The building would have been sold long ago if mortgages were easy to come by.

    The house itself is a solid McGill structure with high ceilings and huge windows. It has great potential as a single or multi-unit home. The carriage house is unique and offers more possibilities for creative use.

    The house was rewired and upgraded in 2002 by electricians from Ridgway and Ernst.

    The fact that the ‘interior has been gutted’ (meaning there are no original wooden features) is mostly due to the change in ownership in the 1950’s when 1922 was a Boy’s Home as part of the Catholic Church. Other changes of extra bathrooms and kitchens were added in the early 90’s before we had ownership.
    Also, most houses built in the 1880’s did not have fancy woodwork since machine lathes were not in production.

    So please let your friends and neighbors know that this property is AVAILABLE. and you don’t have to be a millionaire to own it.

    Laura Seldman - May 2, 2010 @ 7:54 pm
  17. “The building would have been sold long ago if mortgages were easy to come by.”

    Isn’t that what kind of caused the whole financial crisis in the first place — that mortgages were too easy to come by? I guess it depends on what you mean by “long ago” — if you mean last year, then I agree it was hard to get a mortgage then. But look back a couple years ago and the money was flowing freely.

    Justin - May 5, 2010 @ 8:37 am
  18. First, the Housing Complex has some more history on this: http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/housingcomplex/2010/05/06/ledroit-mark-after-tangling-with-fraudster-d-c-couple-struggles-to-unload-historic-house/

    Second, the current owner is dead wrong on two counts:
    One being that Mr Epstein is not only interested in maximizing square footage, he made that clear when he willing reduced the scale of the project due to community concerns. As a business man(with a pretty small company), he cannot afford to take on a project just because its interesting or fun. ‘If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.’ But no one would become a ‘jillionaire’ and Myla Moss suggests.

    The other is that the house needs, by Laura Seldman’s estimation, $200-$300K in repairs. Add that to the listing price and any 6th grader can tell you that’s more than a million. Additionally, that number would only include necessary/minor repairs. I toured the house. Its 11 or 12 studio apartments in rough shape. To get to to an attractive state with modern amenities/systems would probably run more in the $750K to $1M range. In short, you do need to be a millionaire.

    Ok, I am going to pile it on here: you’re fault or not, Mrs Seldman, the interior millwork of the house has nothing to do with ‘machine lathes.’ Prior to the industrial revolution there was plenty of ‘fancy woodwork’ that was hand carved and much more valuable than anything machines can make. Ever notice how older houses have more detail? Well that’s because they were built in an age of craftsmen, not an age of cookie cutter, largely mass produced buildings. And while I agree that the structure of the house is largely in tact, not much else is. In it’s current configuration it might be able to be used as student housing or as a flop house. Buyers beware: it needs extensive work. Seldman, Epstein, and the community lost out here. And as the leader and voice of the nimby sect, any blame should rest squarely on the shoulders of Myla Moss, in this neighbor’s opinion.

    dano - May 7, 2010 @ 10:25 am
  19. Certainly there are more opportunities for 1922 between flophouse and 16 unit projects. Creative vision and modest intentions can combine utilizing the unique McGill main house and the carriage house.
    What would be wrong with student housing? It’s sorely needed.

    Laura Seldman - May 10, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

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