BACA on Langston School

100_0404.JPGThe Langston School on the unit block of P St NW has been vacant, and crumbling for years, possibly decades. The building is in such bad condition, charters who get 1st dibs on DC school buildings have given it a hard pass.

So after decades of nothing from the city, the Bates Area Civic Association (BACA) has decided to attempt to tackle the problem.  Take a look at the BACA Resolution in Support of Development Proposal for Langston School. To sum it up, BACA says it has been vacant for too long and is hurting the surrounding area, and maybe the National Peace Corps Association seems interested in it, please let them buy it.

 

No need for developer hate- who built your house?

So I was reading, okay skimming, through a lot of web posts and articles about housing and there was a fair amount of hate on developers, real estate developers. Apparently all developers care about is money. Okay, but didn’t a developer build your house? Your apartment?

So the newly historic landmarked Wardman Flats were built by a real estate developer Harry Wardman, which is why it is landmarked… Okay it was landmarked because a present day developer threatened the turret at 319 R Street and landmarking is a hammer people can use. Wardman did not build the houses on Square 519 (btwn 3rd, 4th, Florida, and R Streets NW) for charity. He was a builder, that’s how he made money. He built a lot in DC, mainly, for the money.

Bates St Turn of the century A few years  before Wardman built in Truxton Circle and a few blocks over the Washington Sanitary Improvement Company (WSIC) built flats between North Cap, Q, P, and 3rd Streets NW.  Paul Williams has a wonderful blog post about WSIC, so there is no need for me to rehash that history. WSIC wasn’t completely all about the money, more about ‘business philanthropy’. I’m not completely sure, but my reading is that this type of project was to provide dividends to stockholders. So doing good and making money?

My own house is over 140 years old and as far as I can tell, was built by a guy who rented to poor black labors. Can’t find anything that shows he built my house for anything other than the money.

There is no public housing in Truxton Circle. There is HUD subsidized housing, but no public housing. But even city supported or federally subsidized housing involve developers as well. I don’t have any good history about that so, this is where I’ll end this post.

Probably nothing new at the corner of Florida & 3rd NW

So mommy (me) decided she wanted some vermouth and pintxos and so we (me and the baby) sat out on the patio of ANXO. While I was there I noticed the owner of the commercial property across the street and another man talking in front. The other man had a clipboard. It’s probably nothing.

I did see a mention a while back on PoPville about this, but we’ve been on this ride before and it goes nowhere. Many, many years back, way before ANXO, two ladies wanted to turn the building into a wine bar. However, according to them, the landlord was difficult. It has been vacant for years, but well kept.

I also noticed a kitty in the upstairs window. Kitty in the window means the upstairs is occupied. At least occupied by a black and white kitty cat, so I need to take it off my vacant list on my other blog.

Really, probably nothing will change. If it does, I’ll be pleasantly (hopefully) surprised.

319 R Street NW- a sign

319 R St NW, 20001So what’s new? A sign.

I attended the Bates Area Civic Association (BACA) meeting on Monday and a neighbor from that block said she spoke with the owner/developer. That person informed her that they would be keeping the place a single family home. Even though they purchased the property back in June 2015 for $750K, they could break even, or profit, by giving it a super interior renovation and exterior restoration.

For those of you just joining us in this story, here’s the quick summary. Back in the 00s a Korean church bought the property to do inner city mission work. Then they sold it to a developer, who then proposed to knock off the turret and build a 3rd story in order to make a 2 unit condo. They hinted that if they were not allowed to do so they would demolish the whole building, as a matter of right. They played chicken, and lost. A hundred years prior, developer Harry Wardman built almost all the buildings on the block 319 R sat on, and this was the reasoning that was used to make the whole square a National Historic Landmark. The landmark status prevented the developers from making any exterior changes. This probably could have been prevented if the turret was respected or if the architects who drew the second proposed drawing incorporated the turret, instead of plopping on a dunce hat on the proposed 3rd floor. It had been done before around the corner on 4th St where a 3rd floor was added and the problem didn’t go past BZA.

Considering Harry Wardman built all those townhouses as 2 story flats, I don’t see why it cannot become a 2 unit building. The building has a tad over 2,000 square feet, so dividing it into half wouldn’t create two too tiny units. But there are costs to dividing up a single unit structure (character preservation vs affordable housing, ‘nother topic for another day) and it appears a nicely (not impressive but nice) renovated corner house like 319 R St NW would sell for 1.something million dollars. One point four if I were a betting woman. The house across the street for $1.25 mil is under contract, and 319 conceivably has 1 parking pad and those are worth gold!

So we’ll see what happens and keep an eye on it.

Scripture Cathedral is no more

Nighttime view from 8th St NW
View from 8th St NW. Scripture Cathedral is no more.

Walking to mass Saturday I noticed that a building was missing from the corner of 9th and O Street NW. The Scripture Cathedral that shared a parking lot with Immaculate Conception Catholic Church is now gone. It emptied some time ago, but now it is no more. Probably, luxury condos will go there.

I figure Roadside Development will get around to putting a building on the parking lot space whenever the other developer finishes putting a building on the Scripture Cathedral space.

Amazon Headquarters in Shaw? Oh Hell No!

So going though my email digests I read, a press release titled “Washington, DC Proposes Four Sites for Amazon HQ2”. Instead of deleting it after skimming the first 2 suggestions pushed forward by Mayor Bowser of the Anacostia waterfront and NoMa, I spotted “Shaw- Howard University” and actually screamed.

Commercial Building Map
Map of Shaw for 1970 Commercial Buildings

This was not a scream of delight. More of dread, followed by a suspicious feeling that the Mayor’s office is sucking up to some Shaw community or group because, seriously, where the hell would you put it? Would Amazon have to buy a chunk of the financially distressed Howard University and put it around there?

It would be nice if Amazon decided to put its second headquarters here and the Mayor’s alexawhydc.com campaign is cute. However, we’ve got one major industry in town that employs a range of people (meaning you don’t always need a college degree or post secondary anything) and a lot of them, Uncle Sam. Yes, the federal government is slowly reducing its workforce in the city (if I want to rise up I’d have to go to our suburban office) and the city should seek other major employers. Preferably employers who need people other than college and grad school graduates like myself. Anyway, I have a feeling that we should not set ourselves up for heartbreak. And on the off chance Amazon does choose DC, stay out of Shaw, traffic is a pain in the butt around here already.

Clever Parlor

Corner Art gallery/ tattoo parlorSo the Help and I have been spending a lot of time in Baltimore, dealing with a rental property. So that’s why we found ourselves in the Washington Village (aka Pigtown) neighborhood on a Friday night. Taking a break from grouting a shower, we wandered out to get some dinner.

There is a mix of commercial and residential buildings on the main strip of Washington Blvd, and I had passed by this shop (pictured) several times. It looked like it was an art gallery that might want to be a low key skate shop.  That night the lights were bright and the art on the wall called out to me. At the time the shop’s operator was hanging out with some skinny art student, sketching a drawing, in the door and invited us to come in.

We came in to take a closer look at the canvases on the wall and the t-shirts in the cubes. My dear spouse, the Help, is a super chatty fellow and began chatting up the operator, who explained that they feature different artists’ work and the owner’s tattoo art.

Holy crap we’ve walked into a tattoo parlor.

Clever!

Very clever. People tend to object to tattoo parlors in their neighborhoods because, face it many tattoo storefronts have the charm of a low rent pawn shop. However, art galleries are cool and people like art galleries. Tattoo artists are artists and it totally makes sense to have them in an art gallery! And it makes sense to have their art alongside other artists.

I think this, having a gallery/parlor, would make sense in other areas where a tattoo parlor wants to come in and pretty up the neighborhood.

I provided the gun but I didn’t shoot him: Historic Landmarking of Sq. 519

319 R St NWSo I got a comment accusing me of wanting historic designations for other’s properties but not my own.

Yay a comment that isn’t spam. I’d prefer a critical comment over 10 comments selling snake oil and condos in Mumbai.

What is it all about? Well there is an application with the Historic Preservation Office for the whole (with a few exceptions) block of Square 519, which is bounded by Florida Ave, 4th, R, & 3rd Streets. It is Case 17-18 Wardman Flats.  The DC Preservation League, not I, nominated the block for Historic Landmark status. What does this mean? It means that the developer for 319 R Street can’t go forward yet and the turret on the corner is protected from demo by DC historic preservation law.

I’ve been busy with a property in Baltimore, MD the past month, so I haven’t had much involvement with 319 R Street NW beyond a few blog posts, tweets and showing up at BACA meetings. I’ve been consumed by that (because of a bad contractor experience) and have neglected a lot of things here in DC. So what has happened with 319 R St NW and the rest of the block, was not of my doing.

I will admit, proudly, that I did provide the tools for the application. There is a badly outdated website I created called TruxtonCircle.org . There you can find the census information for every man, woman and child who lived in the area known as Truxton Circle from 1880 to 1940. It has been up since 2012. A paper I wrote sometime ago, “Ethnic Divides in an 1880 DC Neighborhood” was referenced in the application. I’ve been researching the history of the neighborhood for well over a decade and sharing it, so if someone wanted to use it for other purposes, they can.  But if someone tries to make Truxton Circle a historic district, I will fight them.

I can totally understand if the residents of Square 519 are mad. They’ve been swept up in something stirred up by the developers of 319 R St NW. If they hadn’t threatened to raze the building, or if they had their architects create a second drawing incorporating the existing turret (as opposed to throwing a new one on top like an ill fitting dunce hat), it probably would not have come to this. The owner of 1721 4th St NW added a 3rd floor without getting the National Register of Historic Places involved and triggering something like this.

But why drag everyone else on the block into this? Whelp… it appears to be a stronger case when taking the block as a whole because, with a few exceptions, it is a Harry Wardman block. So everyone else on the block has this hanging over them because the developers of 319 R Street NW threatened the corner turret.

In this I’m like the person who provided the gun, but I didn’t shoot the guy. And if you’re wondering if I’ve left any other historic weaponry around for anyone to gather and use in an landmarking application, then yes, there is more. People of Bates Street, be aware.