Does Fenty Just Get to Demolish Buildings Willy-Nilly?
I noticed this puzzling e-mail on a listserv this morning:
Subject: [MPD-5D] Mayor Fenty's has ordered the razing of the Property at 1811 3rd St NE — Wednesday, May 6th 9:00AM
Good Morning All,
Last Thursday, April 23rd, Mayor Fenty conducted a Walk-Thru in the Eckington community. Comm Wright had great concerns about a once beautiful, but very dangerous Victorian house. Mayor Fenty stated 'this is by far the worst property he had seen'. He told DCRA to have it razed immediately. Upon inspection, Chief Groomes determined this property was inhabited by squatters. Thank you Comm. Wright, and Michael Clark, for your determination. This property will be razed today. Thank you DCRA and DHCE for the tough job of tearing it down!
Alice [Thompson, Ward 5 outreach coordinator for the Mayor]
So, the mayor just gets to point and say "Tear it down!" and his wish will be fulfilled? I'm sure there is a larger explanation for this e-mail; But at first glance, it is very odd.
Eckingtonians, speak up! Does anyone know what's going on here? I thought—just a wild guess—that building inspectors or structural engineers determined whether homes should be demolished? This note makes it seem that the mayor made the final call. I just left a message for Alice Thompson, asking her to call me back and explain this situation.
But already there is one local resident sounding the alarm about this tear-down:
Dear all -
I'm an active historic preservationist in the Eckington neighborhood and am VERY dissapointed in the way this city handles distressed properties like this one. This raze could have been avoided if the negligent property owners, in this case a now defunct developer based in Maryland, was taken to task by DCRA for demolition by neglect. This, the Granville Lewis home, is one of many cases, including the demolition of the Jesse Baltimore house in Palasades where DCRA and the city council have fallen down completely on preserving our rich architectural heritage SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!
I expect more from my government than this. I wouldn't proudly tear down what could have been restored. Now it'll be a hole in the ground serving no purpose for years and years. If you want to remove squatters and blight – turn up the heat on the negligent property owners or use imminent domain and transfer the properties to developers who see the potential for such structures. Too bad there are more and more instances like this one. I'm an active voter and will keep this incident in mind when selecting future leaders of this city. Can't we be more creative in providing solutions besides tearing things down?
Steve Rynecki [who I quoted in this Eckington article by the way.]
Photo by Darrow Montgomery