14 Sep 2010

What is Happening With 10th & C, NE?

1000 C St, NE

It stands as a monument to blight.  What presumably was once a stately home has been left to deteriorate for over a decade.  If you’ve ever walked by the corner of 10th & C, NE, you know the house I’m talking about.  It’s a large home, occupying a prominent corner and it is in absolutely shameful condition.

Every window is boarded up, the front door is two pieces of plywood with a chain.  Yet, even in this condition it sparks the imagination.  I don’t know a single developer, real estate agent or nearby homeowner, for that matter, that hasn’t spent some time fantasizing how they’d renovate.  Then there are the entrepreneurs who dream of opening a shop downstairs while living upstairs.

So what exactly is going on with 1000 C Street, NE?  Read on to find out about this house and what you can do when there’s vacant property in your neighborhood.

Finding concrete information about how this house came to be in such a condition is difficult.  Living only a couple of blocks away, it has come up in conversation plenty of times and I’ve heard several rumors, from it being the result of a tax sale gone wrong or a family feud or maybe the result of a will caught up in probate.  The most detailed explanation I’ve heard is that the owner wanted to break it up into condos but couldn’t get the permits, so decided he’d thumb his nose at the city and the neighborhood by allowing the home to sit vacant and decline.  Whether some, all or none of this is true is uncertain.  (If you live nearby and have any more information, please share it in the Comments.)

What I do know from credible resources is that the home has been empty for around 15 years, it has been the subject of some litigation (though its nature is unclear), and it is currently being used as storage.  City records show it is owned by an LLC, Tenth and C Street Associates, and its assessed value is $423,500.

Though I can’t explain exactly why this house is vacant, I can tell you that the owners have received some motivating news.  The house has been categorized as “blighted” which means the owners must pay a 10% property tax.  Based on the assessed value, that’s a $42,350 tax bill.  By comparison, at the regular residential property tax rate of 0.85% the bill would have been $3,600.  The owners have been subject to the higher rate before, but have somehow managed to use their two available exemptions to defer.  Finally, they will be forced to either literally pay the price for marring the neighborhood or sell to someone interested in making the house an asset to the block.  Vermin and shady lurkers beware.

According to the Property Information Verification System, on August 6th the owners applied for and received a permit to “replace the windows in accordance with historic standards”.  Whether or not that is good news remains to be seen.  One indication of a blighted property is boarded up windows.  If the owners do replace the windows, it may only be a ploy to get off the blighted list.  They also applied for permits in 2005 and 2006 to do pointing and masonry work, but it didn’t result in any appreciable improvement.  In fact, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs records show complaints about this house first dating from 2002, so improvements applied for in 2005 may have been an earlier attempt to avoid the higher tax.

It may have taken several years to get to this point with 1000 C, but the process does work.  This summer I walked my Single Member District to check the status of homes listed as vacant or blighted and found that in the year since the current blighted tax has been in effect, 68% of the properties on the list have been renovated and are now occupied.

What can you do if there is a vacant or blighted house on your block?  First, a couple of definitions.  A vacant property is one that has been unoccupied for 30 days and the owner does not intend to occupy it.  A blighted property is one that is vacant and, for example, has broken or boarded up windows; is not weather-tight or secured against the entry of birds, vermin or trespassers; has graffiti; or exposed surfaces are not protected from the elements, i.e., its unpainted or has peeling paint.  Currently there is only the 10% tax rate for blighted properties, but in its recently passed budget the Council reinstated a vacant property tax rate of 5% which will go into effect in the spring of 2011.

In the meantime, these properties that are hazards to our neighborhoods can only be penalized if they’re reported.  The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) vacant property page has a phone number and email for reporting the properties.  Your ANC representative can also be very helpful, so include them on your correspondence.  Believe me, you’ll be much happier walking by or living next to a real neighbor instead of a shabby shell.


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15 responses to “What is Happening With 10th & C, NE?”

  1. A.T. says:

    Thanks for this post! I walk by this house daily and have often wondered about its history. I’m glad to hear it’s officially “blighted”, that news offers some hope that the property will improve. I also wanted to say thanks to the person who keeps the lawn trimmed. Despite the condition of the house, at least it’s not totally overgrown to boot.

  2. Jay says:

    My wife and I spoke to someone who lives nearby – she essentially confirms what you have here. Owner wanted to convert to condos, was denied permits for some reason – now is used as a fancy storage shed. Very sad – it’s a BEAUTIFUL building.

    Another interesting note – the neighbor claims the house used to be a brothel way back when.

  3. Jon says:

    Thanks Sharee. The house next door to ours is unoccupied and in serious disrepair. At least now I know where I can report it.

  4. Erik says:

    Great post. This would be a welcome regular feature to the blog. I can think of several similar properties/lots I’ve walked by and wondered about. The church on Mass Ave SE @ 14th St, e.g.

  5. Anne says:

    I use to live a few doors down and meet the owner (a few years ago) who uses the inside to store building materials…i think he is/was in some kinda construction. I peaked inside once…it is a complete shell…no wall no floors. Anyways, I heard in the rumor mill of the neighborhood that he was denied a permit to make it condos because the neighbors didn’t want all the extra cars parking on the street – I guess he didn’t have a parking plan for all the condo occupants. And having lived in that area, parking can be a pain.

    • Sharee Lawler Sharee Lawler says:

      That’s what I’ve seen too when I’ve been able to peek in — just a shell with some random things stored inside. The tax records break down the value of the land vs. value of the building in the assessment. Not surprisingly, the land is valued more than the house.

      The condo story seems to have the most credibility, but knowing the answer to the question doesn’t make me feel any better about someone that allows a potentially beautiful property sit as an eyesore, attracting all the unsavory things a vacant property attracts.

  6. Matt says:

    What’s the deal with the building on 4th Street SE between C and North Carolina? This one has been empty for ages too.

  7. SEGal says:

    What about blighted DC owned buildings?

    For example the old boys and girls club on the corner of 17th , Mass Ave SE, and C Street SE? Any word on when and what that will be? Right now it sits empty, boarded up windows, pigeons are nesting through cracked windows, and folks seem to drops off large bulk trash out front (TV’s, shopping carts).

  8. Roberta says:

    Thanks for writing about this building! I’ve lived down the street from it for years, and have always wondered about it. I heard the same thing – that it’s storage right now. I hope the property taxes can motivate the owner to sell this “magnificent wreck” and allow someone to turn it into a beautiful house again.

  9. Sharee Lawler says:

    Thanks for the suggestion on other buildings to check out — we’ll see what we can dig up. Researching this can be tricky, since parts of the process fall under both DCRA and OTR (the tax side) but, truly, the people in city government working on this for our ward are helpful resources.

  10. Rachel says:

    What about properties that are occupied, but in horrible shape? I live next door to someone who barely has a back to their house. It’s just plywood nailed over insulation which is poking out everywhere. The place looks like it will collapse any day!

  11. RD says:

    Here’s More investigative Tools available online:

    DC Courts – Search Dockets to see if any Civil Litigation is out there.
    Individual Names & Companies.

    DC Recorder of Deeds – Online Public Records
    Requires you to create a sign on userid
    Allows viewing of all paperwork associated with Ownership, Deeds, Deeds of Trust, Liens, Releases, etc. Can go back for Decades.
    One can buy copies of Filed Documents for $4 that downloads as PDFs

    DC Tax Office – Search Real Property Assessment Database
    Will show if Tax Liens were sold to Investors – If so, Lien Purchaser can pursue Title to Property through the courts, often a long & arduous process that will cloud the property.

    There’s many pieces to the puzzle in regards to trouble properties.

    321 18th St SE – A non-descript former Apt Building with tenants, Developer / Investors under a LLC got grandiose ideas in 2003 for a condo conversion, even had a website, gutted the building, sold & resold property at inflated values, obtained mortgages, failed to pay property taxes, tax liens, tax sale liens sold to investors, clean city liens, lis pends has been recently filed. The building sits rotting away.

  12. crin says:

    If he is truly using the house as storage for building materials, i.e using the house as a warehouse, he’s violating the allowed use under Zoning regs. He probably doesn’t have a Certificate of Occupancy that allows that use. Call DCRA and get a zoning inspector to check it out. He’ll be subject to fines for illegal use.

    DHCD has an active acquisition program for blighted properties. They take the property from the owner, then sell to a developer that will do something with it. The program generally targets blighted neighborhoods, not blighted buildings in stable neighborhoods, but it’s worth a call. When this DHCD acquisition program comes knocking, owners usually get their act together because there are no loop holes. DHCD takes it and that’s that.

  13. Cleareye says:

    I have a B&B in Hollywood and would like to expand to Washington. How can I reach the owner?

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