Housing Complex

Rotting Jemal Building Will Get Its Day In Court

The Location noted yesterday that Douglas Development had submitted raze applications for the elegant, decaying buildings now covered with a large ad wrap at 11th and K Streets NW. I haven't heard back yet from Norman Jemal on why the company decided to take it down, but I'd be willing to bet it has something to do with the building finally being classed as blighted, which carries a ten percent tax. The way the law is written, you don't pay blight taxes on empty lots. It would be too bad if a well-intentioned law resulted in the destruction of an historic structure like this one.

Fortunately, the system has a check: The D.C. Preservation League filed a landmark nomination several years ago, and the Historic Preservation Review Board has to rule on it before the city can approve the raze permit. I'd be surprised if the Board lets Douglas get away with this one. If they do decide to landmark the building, the company won't have many options.

Relatedly: The Historic Preservation Office has also decided to fast track the York Theater nomination, since the owners have applied for additional permits. It's headed for the June 28th meeting agenda.

  • Thayer-D

    All Jemal has to do is let it fall apart through neglect. Once a portion colapses, it can be condemed and it's time for the wrecking ball. These stories are what turn historic preservationists into hysterical preservationists. Don't pay a ticket and eventually you'll get dragged in to court. Let a historic building fall down and, oh well!

  • TM

    How would this not be an example of the "weaponization of landmarking"?

    Yes the motives may be different than the motives of the Brookland or Chevy Chase NIMBYs, but in the end, is this building more worthy of protection? Does its protection depend on what Jemal will ultimately build there? If he had plans in the works, would you fight the demolition?

    Obviously the raze permit is cynical and the protestors actually have a record of caring about historical protection, but I don't think it's possible to say that it's nothing like what the Brookland and Chevy Chase NIMBYs were doing.

  • Eric

    Is there a deadline by which the Historic Preservation Review Board must rule after a building has been nominated for "landmark" status? It would seem that the system is broken if it has been "several years" since the nomination, keeping the building and the developer (and the surrounding area), in limbo. The HPRB could theoretically take all the time they want, costing a property owner thousands of dollars as they wait to see whether they can actually work with their property or if its "historic" status will be cast in stone.

  • Lydia DePillis

    @TM - Interesting comparison, but I think this one's a separate issue. It's not landmarking a dubiously historic structure in order to prevent development of some other thing, it's an attempt to force the preservation of a legitimately valuable piece of old downtown. Douglas is the one that's not doing anything with the site, not NIMBYs. I agree that the definition of "historic" is subjective, but when you compare the landmark nominations of say the Brightwood Car Barn or Colonel Brooks' Tavern to this one, the difference is pretty obvious.

  • Lydia DePillis
  • http://www.dougvansant.com/ DVS

    Not that I love the current usage of the building as nothing more than a billboard. But how on earth could someone wish to raze this beautiful structure. There has to be something we can do to stop that! C'mon Douglas Dev., get creative. Save the building and do something extraordinary with it.

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