City Desk

Is City Paying Too Much for Vacant Lot?

The city plans to spend over $2 million on a vacant lot in Shaw to move forward on rehabbing the historic Howard Theater.

The parcel, behind the theater at 1830 Wiltberger Place NW, is assessed at about $1.25 million. Under the contract submitted for council approval, the city proposes paying $2,012,500 for the lot. That's a premium of 60 percent.

The land is needed, according to city documents, to construct "back-of-the-house facilities" and loading areas for the theater, to which the city has committed up to $15 million in grants and tax breaks. Now anyone with a modicum of real-estate knowledge knows that assessed valuations are always well underneath market values, but a 60 percent premium is noteworthy—especially in the current real-estate market.

The lot's owner, Himat A. Gulajan of Centreville, was not available for comment; a person answering his phone said he's out of town until Monday.

Sean Madigan, a spokesperson for Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Neil Albert, says the price is tied to an appraisal that puts the value of the land at $1.75 million. As for the 14 percent extra the city is paying, Madigan says it "isn’t uncommon to pay a premium in circumstances like this," where a parcel is needed for a larger project.

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  • James

    As a resident of Wiltberger Street, I find it disturbing the City is willing to pay more than market value for a lot that had a building that was demolished three months prior. More over, it's quite disappointing the residents were not notified that the demolition would be taking place. That's unacceptable. While we all support the renovation and rehabilition of the Howard Theatre and the Wonderbread Factory, that support doesn't come at "any cost." After all, we still live on this street. We're more invested here than the developers.