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Good news and bad for Dupont at-risk buildings

Last month, I talked about buildings in the Dupont area in danger of "demolition by neglect," which is when an owner, intentionally or unintentionally, lets a building rot away until it has to be torn down. That's always a major loss to our historic building stock. DC has laws to prevent it, but they're often not enforced very well.

There's good news on the vacant Democratic Republic of the Congo chancery, at New Hampshire and S: Congolese officials have "informed [the Department of State] that they have selected a contractor from the several that made proposals for the renovation." This is a beautiful building that's in terrible disrepair, and it'd be great to have it back.

Left: Chancery of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Photo from the DC Preservation League. Right: 1841 16th Street.
Photo by lightboxdc on Flickr.

The news is less positive for 1841 16th Street, the building rented out to students and young people where an internal wall collapsed in early June. Via the Dupont Circle Conservancy, I'm told that the owners want to tear the building down, but HPO is opposing the request. It's important that HPO win, both for this building and to set precedent for others in the future. The owners should restore the building as is, or sell it to someone who will.

Update from DCCA: The owner of 1841 16th claimed in a letter to residents that the building will be partly demolished, and new work begun, on Monday. Given HPO's opposition, it seems unlikely they have all the permits; they may be trying to knock it down before anyone can stop them. Updates to come as I hear them.

Update 2 (Friday 11 am): Via HPO, the owners have been denied a raze permit. In the past some people have razed buildings illegally, but that'd be a drastic action that hopefully is above this landlord.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Is 1841 16th in a historic district or already landmarked?

by DG-rad on Jul 31, 2008 12:52 pm • linkreport

It's in the Sixteenth Street historic district.

(And if it were a block away it'd be in the Greater U Street district (east) or the Strivers' Section district (west); with only a small number of exceptions, everything north of N and south of Florida is in a historic district east to about 7th Street.)

by David Alpert on Jul 31, 2008 1:02 pm • linkreport

Does anyone know if there are plans for the Iranian embassy on Mass Ave? It is located near the UK and South African embassies. It is in a great location but the building appears to be vacant. I found this from the Washingtonian:

"Under the Shah, the oil-rich Iranians owned a big chancery whose blue dome and Persian decoration made it a landmark on Massachusetts Avenue. The country also owned a 46-room mansion next door—originally built for an heir to the Corning Glass fortune—where the Shah’s man in Washington, Ardeshir Zahedi, was famous for parties.

After the Shah was deposed by Islamic revolutionaries and Americans were taken hostage at our embassy in Tehran in 1979, normal diplomatic relations ended. All Iranian diplomatic properties here were seized, including the chancery and the ambassador’s residence. Over the years, the State Department has used the chancery for offices, including one that dispensed diplomatic license plates. The residence has twice served as the Decorators Show House to raise money for the National Symphony Orchestra and has been rented out to individuals."

by Ben on Jul 31, 2008 1:52 pm • linkreport

Any news on whether anything occured here this morning?

by Lance on Aug 4, 2008 12:45 pm • linkreport

Good news. Nothing got pulled down. Apparently as a result of the DCCA keeping various parties informed, the owners made sure to check first if the District was okay with their commencing work ... and were informed "no".

by Lance on Aug 5, 2008 8:22 pm • linkreport

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