Washington, D.C. has the best real estate market in the country – just walk up 14th Street NW. But even on the most glittering and glistening blocks of new and new-ish construction, there are some sad little broken-down buildings that I adore and monitor patiently for new signs of life. Por ejemplo:
Federal-American National Bank/Hahn Shoe Building, 615 14th Street, NW
This former site of the Federal-American National Bank and Hahn Shoe sits two blocks from the White House and one door down from the National Press Club, but (according to one DCMud commenter) “still looks like it is in the decrepit marion barry 1980-90s.” In 2008, the HPRB gave concept approval to beautiful plans for the site to become the Armenian Genocide Museum, which would maintain the building’s historic features while adding a glass extension that would serve as the main entrance. Unfortunately, the museum is now on hold due to litigation about back D.C. real estate taxes. Keeping my fingers crossed…
“Ledo” Building, 433 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
The owner of this building, Austin Spriggs, was all over the news in the summer of 2010 as a cautionary example of too much faith in the booming real estate bubble. As the block surrounding 433 Massachusetts was bought up by developers, Spriggs held out, using as his excuse some plan to build a neighborhood pizza place. By the summer of 2010, the tiny building looked like the last scene of “Batteries Not Included” (you know, the one where the tiny brick brownstone is surrounded by massive metallic NYC skyscrapers). Once Buddha Bar and high end condos moved in, Spriggs had a change of heart and listed the property for $1.5M. But it was too late – the boom was bust. Finally, in May of 2011, a developer purchased the building for $800,000. Here is the architect’s rendering of what the new restaurant space will look like:
Webster School, 940 H Street NW
During my days in lawyer hell (aka document review), I used to stare out the window across the massive parking lot (soon to be City Center) at the Daniel Webster School and wondered why the lovely red brick structure was boarded up and abandoned. Built in 1882, it only served as a public school through the first decade of the 20th century, but the DC Public Schools continued to use it for educational purposes and citizenship classes through the 90’s. Years of neglect led to some damage. According to the GSA:
A lack of proper maintenance over the last twenty years has resulted in severe water damage, causing substantial deterioration of the roof structure, floor structure, masonry, and interior finishes. Advanced rot of the wood-framed floor structure resulted in the complete collapse of all three floors of the southeast corner, destroying all interior features in this section of the building. The surrounding masonry walls remain intact and have since been stabilized with interior and exterior shoring.
During the late 90’s, it was owned by the National Treasury Employees Union, who tried to knock it down but were successfully challenged by the DC Preservation League. The Secret Service (whose HQ is next door) then took the building by eminent domain with plans to use it as an adjunct space. But, now they say that there are inadequate funds to do anything to the structure in the foreseeable future.
“Special Sign” mansion, 1001 K Street or 1015/1017 11th Street NW (depending on who you’re asking)
Behind the weird billboard (a.k.a. “special sign”), chain link fences, rot, and age, anyone can tell that this building was once amazing. Owned since 2003 by Douglas Development (who pays regular commercial tax on the address, not the blighted rate), there is no information about what’s next for the property. I’m trying to get an update…stay tuned.
What seemingly abandoned or neglected buildings do you keep your eye on?