Housing Complex

Should Affordable Housing Trump Historic Preservation?

On Wisconsin Avenue just north of the National Cathedral, in a gap between large boxy apartment buildings, a modest house sits back incongruously from the street. It's been empty and deteriorating for the last several years, since the Historic Preservation Review Board rebuffed owner Mark Kaufman's attempt to move the building to another location (the staff report recommended that the move be allowed, given that the site's hard to develop with the house there, but former chairman Tersh Boasberg didn't go for it).

Now, Kaufman's back with a different proposal, detailed in the Northwest Current a few weeks ago: Raze the building entirely, and build condos for low-income people instead. He's teamed up with affordable housing developer UrbanMatters and come up with an 18-unit, 60-foot-high building by Cunningham and Quill architects that very much blends into the stuff around it.

They anticipate that the Board will again reject the application, somewhat bound as it is by precedent, and they'll have to appeal their case to the Mayor's Agent. There, Kaufman and UrbanMatters' Rax Nix will argue that this falls under the category of exemptions known as "special merit," because it's providing affordable homeownership opportunities in a neighborhood that sure doesn't have many. According to the Historic Preservation Office's Steve Callcott, this is the first time anybody's made that claim—so the Mayor's Agent's decision will carry more import than most.

What the new building will look like.

You can bet this one will bring out folks demanding that Kaufman simply rehabilitate the house for a single family, which is a heavy economic lift (though possible, if a rich enough person were to come along and fall in love with it). It's too bad they didn't let him save the house in the first place.

  • Typical DC BS

    Take one look at my screen name and it says it all about this whole matter. What sheer idiocy on the Historic Preservation Review Board's part. I can't believe they are that devoid of common sense.

  • Cleveland Park Resident

    Anything that Mark Kaufman is proposing is almost certainly a bad idea... the man doesn't have enough ethics to fill a thimble.

  • RT

    Knock this down. Single family home along a major commercial and high/mid rise residential corridor? Historic? hah!

    I don't care for the affordable housing slant- but if it works, then so be it. Anything to take power away from the entitled uber-NIMBYs.

  • Sammy

    Is this the same guy who built the problematic development on Springland La? Who wanted to blanket what is now Rosedale park with townhouses? The same guy who's been pursuing a demolition by neglect strategy on this house for years? When he says he'll build "affordable" housing, he probably means units marketed at AU students using dad's Amex platinum card. DC taxpayers, hold on to your wallets!

  • Drez

    Is it historic? Significant? Preserve and encorporate it into a new, larger, multi-unit affordable housing structure.

  • The truth for you

    Historic preservationists have no use for people with less income than they have. And they work hand in hand with the gentrifiers to make this city richer and whiter.

  • DC Guy

    Without a curb cut on Wisconsin Avenue, this house is landlocked. No way it is viable as a single family house.

  • Sammy

    2005 City Paper article on business practices of Mark Kaufman and his Hastings Development Co. in the Monterrey in Cleveland Park.


  • The Tersh Building

    I hope they call it the Tersh or the Sammy.
    Kaufman offered a reasonable solution with the move and Tersh fought it like the nasty guy he is.
    And now Kaufman's faced with what to do with the building/site. As to Sammy's claim of demolition by neglect, please prove it Sammy. do you think that when Tersh was railroading HPRB and he thought that there was a case of demo by neglect, that he wouldn't have been screaming about it? Before you start throwing big words and unsubstantiated claims around, maybe you should see what's proposed, the guidelines for affordable housing that are being discussed (no money from the city has been requested- let's deal in facts Sammy, not emotional hatred of Kaufman, AU students and their parents and people that need/want affordable housing), and the design? Sammy, if I didn't know you better, I might suspect you're a bigot.
    DC Guy is right. it's landlocked. Furthermore,the house isn't historic, isn't significant (see the historic reports that were submitted with KAufman's move request- do you have those Sammy so you can post a link?)and should be pancaked. It's not about what you think about Kaufman's ethics, it's about what's right for the city, right for preservation, right for this site and people that need affordable housing so they can walk to worship or live near their jobs as teachers, librarians, and firemen.

  • Claire Dechon

    It is incredulous to me for anyone to think that for the unethical Kaufman is a humanitarian all of a sudden. He knowingly bought a historic house kn owing full well the limitations of that but as a lawyer decided to reply and waiting/wheel and dealing game hoping to find that special person who would "play nice". The last proposal only offer a could of the units to be "affordable" ( not really according to last income records of DC) The rest will be the typical developers profit and Kaufman will finally have his headache relieved. He should be bound by the same historic guidelines other properties are or strip the house from him for a responsible person to rebuild.