An Update on the Building Gutted by Fire at 3145 Mt. Pleasant Street


Council Member Jim Graham sent an update via email last week:

“Dear Friends, below is the latest status report from the Tenants Organization at 3145 Mt Pleasant, the apt building that was the source of the 5 alarm fire a little more than a year ago. We have been meeting regularly in my office. This is a troubling and difficult situation. But this report helps understand what is happening.”

Jim — I appreciate your note below, and the strong, unequivocal support that you have given to the residents of the Deauville during the past many years. Arnold & Porter LLP is counsel to the tenants

48 Comment

  • Im so jaded DC.

  • If 40 percent of the tenants want to return. (I have no idea how many are actually planning to return but im guessing most people will move on long before this building ever gets rebuilt. ) Why not have a public -private partnership with a well known local developer. like Donetili. Rebuild the property and sell the units that won’t be filled with returning tenants as higher end condos. I just think it will get rebuilt a lot faster if we aren’t asking the city to foot the bill to rebuild it as low income housing where nobody stands to make a dime. Broke as the city is.

  • once again glad to see the magic dc government money generation apparatus works as well as ever!

  • Low income housing won’t help Mt Pleasant Street.

  • I’m all for the former tenants buying the property and lining up a developer to rebuild the place. Not for public money to be part of the equation. I realize many other less charitable developments have gotten public money in the past, but that doesn’t mean we should continue that trend. Let the project be realized on its own economic merits, if it’s not economical then we shouldn’t be supporting it with public funds when the city is broke.

  • I’m curious what the average rate for the apts were in that building. If they were below $1000/month (which I’m assuming) how would those tenants absorb the increased cost for a unit in the new building? I don’t see how these tenants can have a downpayment to purchase the building and then purchase a unit.

    I lived in a building (88 units) up until three years ago, and it went up for sale and the tenants (me included) went through the motions to figure out how to puchase the building, do an overall rehab of the deterioration, and then purchase a unit in the building. It was nearly impossible, but then the owners pulled out of the deal and I moved.

    I’m not trying to be overly negative, but I am interested in this debate. I’m having a hard time seeing this happen in the long run, and I wonder if negotiations for the next seven years will be worth it to the neighborhood…

  • OMG, I did NOT see that note on public funding. NO NO NO. I’m so sick of this city mishandling money. If the city wants to do that, then I expect a check too!

    I work hard, own a very small condo (which I like, I don’t need more than 600 sqft of space), and pay my taxes to this city — both income and property. When do I get to get a deduction for charitable donation for my taxes??

    Maybe now I’m being overly negative, but come on.

  • if the city is going to fund anything. say to aquire the shell. They should then give it to a developer for free. In return a percentage of the building can be reserved for returning residents who can pay their below market rents to the city until costs are recouped. The developer can sell the rest as higher end condos.

  • They should just knock it down and get that fence out of the street. I know it’s a historic district, but this thing is ridiculous.

  • come on anon, the Grahamstander is doing what he does best – buy votes by handing your tax dollars out. mayor barry can’t have all the fun!

  • the city needs to start putting more clauses in the small print when they go lending money out. the city pissed away a lot of money on DCUSA for example. In return they could have asked that the vacant spaces be offered at market rates so they actually fill. Or perhaps they could pressure DCUSA to offer Ellwood Thompson a break on rent until they can complete their build out and open for business. I think there is room for public private parterships but all too often the city gets screwed

  • No more public housing, please. Our government can’t afford it.

  • What about all the affordable housing to the east and southeast? It seems like a great opportunity to turn these units over to the revenue producers.

    Also, another great efficient way to create more affordable housing… eliminate the income tax on the first $30k of income… all these programs are kept in the name of equality but they are just vote buying schemes… which enlarge gov’t to run the program(more vote buying) and keep these people from achieving economic independence.

  • Dave- Im with you. we dont have to go around saving every facade there is. Knock it down and develope it with some decent ground floor retail space. so many of the small old commercial spaces on mtp street arent appetizing to would be tennants. Maybe a new building could house a mid sized grocer. where as the alternative is probably… ill see you at the ground breaking in 2025.

  • What a bunch of jerks in the comments. These low income folks ended up with burned ashes for their homes and meager possessions because the city didn’t police a slumlord well enough. It’s only fair that the city help pay to get them back in the building, after they spent a year living in a cheap hotel waiting to regain a real home.

  • As someone who lives down the street from this burned-out eyesore, I welcome the news that there are negotiations to have the building rebuilt and that some of the old tenants will be able to return to the building. It is not uncommon for the city to assist real estate projects by giving them tax or financing assistance, particularly if they help provide affordable/workforce housing in a city sorely in need of it. Given how difficult it is to secure financing for real estate projects these days, I would venture a guess that it’s the main concession the attorney is looking for.
    Are the anonymous comments on this thread are coming from the same one or two people? Do you even live in Mt.P?

  • I know some people who lost everything in that fire. Apparently, there were alot of long-term residents who were grandfathered in on rent control. Being someone lucky enough to have rent control, my heart goes out to those residents. Being somebody who has had 3 fires in my building in 5 years, I know the dangers of having a rent controlled apartment. Landlords often neglect those apartments in which the tenants are not paying the premium.

  • I do not want my tax dollars to go to this project. I work too damn hard to pay my own mortgage just to have the city use my tax dollars to bankroll a poorly thought out project that does not consider the needs and wants of the neighborhood. And yes, I live in Mt. Pleasant.

  • The DC government is wasting money by buying votes. What a shock!

  • i live on Mt Pleasant street in a condo building that was redeveloped by an affordable housing development organization called Manna, Inc. that same apartment building was destroyed by a fire about five years ago and is now affordable housing. as a point of information, affordable housing is not the same as public housing. in addition, the vast majority of the city funds that make these projects possible come in the form of loans NOT grants. i wonder if Manna, INC. is the organization working with the tenants association. they do great work.

  • Whoa, people. Public housing? Where do you get that? Nothing in the post even suggests public housing is being considered. Instead it sounds a lot like what was done with the units in the building where The Raven is located. The tenants in that building also lost their homes to a fire, and now have the option of purchasing their rehabilitated units at affordable prices.

  • anon 5:08: “the city” doesn’t owe anyone anything, nor does “the city” create money. “the city” can only take money from one group of constituents and give it to another. nothing “fair” about taking money from me to buy someone else a house.

  • anon at 5:39 pm, you’re an idiot. every society on earth has taxes, where money is taken from you and me to do for the community. you might not like it, but that’s too bad for you.

  • oh i agree VOA, taxation to fund works in the public sphere is a necessity. however buying people fancy condos is not “public sphere”.

  • I agree. No one has the right to live in a trendy neighborhood off the public dole.

  • Will you be demanding that residents of the Highland Park and Kenyon Square pay back the public subsidies that funded development of their homes? If you are a homeowner, will you be returning your housing subsidy — which comes in the form of the mortgage interest deduction on your income taxes — to the US Treasury?

  • I’m paying that back a hundred times over by paying $4000 a year in property taxes!

  • Anon 7:22, everyone pays property taxes, either directly or as part of their rent, and in proportion to the value of the home they choose to live in. The question was whether you are going to pay back the public subsidy that that goes only to homeowners. If you live in DC and you’re paying $4k a year in property taxes, then based on averages you’re paying $30k a year in mortgage interest and your income taxes are being subsidized by non-homeowner taxpayers at about $10,000 a year. I’m sure the Treasury could use that now, so will you be paying? I guess that’s a “no”? People who live on glass public doles shouldn’t thrown stones.

  • 7:16, how about we both get the housing subsidy and that’s it?

    5:08, there is plenty of evidence that this was arson, but not enough to prove it.

    The company can’t raise the money to rebuild, the former tenants should walk away. Stop pining for something that’s not coming back.

    I think the city should help communities in the city that need revitalization, not assist the poor to live in wealthy neighborhoods. How about rebuilding a building in wards 7 or 8?

  • I’m a simple man. Let’s start small. How about reclaiming the sidewalk and bus stop. And then when we accomplish that victory…

  • The huge cost of new urban construction in 2009 doesn’t even figure in.

    People who never sacrificed and saved for a down payment to own holding mere leases for a close in city address with a huge false sense of entitlement wanting something for nothing and demanding it.

    Patronizing politicians giving away money that’s not theirs without any accountability.

    Mindless living in the clouds. Sick, really.

    A lot of inspiration and faith in the future for the rest of us that work and struggle to provide for ourselves and our families in the same neighborhood while others demand it for nothing.

  • Once you bring rent control and artificially low rent into the equation, then the rent fails to cover the property taxes, so no, not everyone is paying property taxes.

    Yes, I get a tax refund now, but it will decrease with every year that goes by as my mortgage is paid off while my property taxes go up.

    Anyway, obviously we’re not going to agree. The bottom line is that I agree that taxes are a necessity for a functioning society, but even after you account for my tax refunds, I’m still paying a net fortune every year.

  • just so people are aware, I looked at a house in Bethesda that was cheaper than many Mt Pleasant houses and the real estate taxes were $15,000 per year. You heard me correctly. It was based on land. After that anyone paying less than $500 per month in taxes is getting a bargain or at least needs to think about other areas.

  • Anon 9:19 if you were correct in that rent controlled rents are so low that they aren’t sufficient to cover all the landlord’s costs, including property taxes, then that means you believe all such landlords are not only not profiting, but actually losing money every year they remain in operation. I think that is self-evidentally an absurd assertion — landlords aren’t charities. (You would have a point if we were talking about public housing or section 8 housing, but we aren’t.) It follows that all renters, including renters in rent controlled buildings, pay property taxes at roughly the same rate as homeowners.

    And the point isn’t how much in taxes any one person pays. If you pay more it’s because you earn more and live in a more lavish property. The point is that your housing costs are being subsidized by the government (and in turn, by other taxpayers), relieving you of the full cost of living in a trendy neighborhood. I guarantee you that the subsidy (as a result of below market interest rate financing) that goes to each unit in a project like the one discussed here is far, far less than the $10k/year government subsidy you are receiving. So if you’re gonna go all Adam Smith on us, that’s cool, but please send your check in the amount of your subsidy to the Treasury tomorrow. If you want to keep your subsidy, that’s cool too, but then don’t complain when people making around one-tenth of your income receive a fraction of the amount of dollars in housing subsidy you receive.

  • Here is my problem. I like mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhoods. However, the mixed-income part only comes up when we are talking about a market rate develop. In that case, the developers should include affordable housing. However, when there is an affordable housing project going up, particularly on Mt. Pleasant Street where there is a concentration of affordable housing, nobody ever talks about the importance of diverse neighborhoods and the need for mixed-income communities. I see this as a good example.

    If we really believe it, then it should be true for all projects, not just for market-rate ones.

  • whoa. you all are a bunch of *&^%. i guess you don’t want the people that mow your lawns, clean your toilets, take care of your kids, make your food, living within a reasonable distance from their work and your luxury condos?

  • Look where the low income housing is and you will find crime. Not much low income housing in Georgetown and not much crime there either.

    Just saying.

  • Not sure where you’re getting this “$10,000” per year subsidy. I get back around $6000 this year as a result of tax refunds, but that’s after I pay $27,000 in income taxes, so I’m still paying a net of $21,000 into the system. Don’t tell me I’m being subsidized. Getting a small fraction back of the fortune I put in does not equal subsidization.

  • I’m with Anonymous at 1:32 a.m. what a bunch of elitist jerks. do you really think policemen, firemen, teachers etc. can afford to live in DC without assistance? and if you don’t care, let me ask you if you think a policeman or fireman would just be slightly more invested in the community if he or she actually lived in it. I for one, would not mind living next to a teacher, or a bus driver, or any number of professionals that don’t earn what I do. not all people who make less than the median income are hellbent on crime and mayhem. in fact, mixing income levels is one way to alleviate pockets of poverty and therefore crime. I would imagine that a group of tenants scrounging and working hard to buy there own building and rebuild it after a year of displacement would be pretty dedicated to keeping it and their neighborhood nice, safe, and would be good neighbors. I used to live in Mt. P and if I still did I would be happy to have them as my neighbors. HAPPY. even if it comes out of my tax dollars.

  • Sorry anon (and other readers), but I can’t let this one drop. You seem to have convinced yourself that you have “earned” your housing subsidy, while those receiving much less in subsidies and having lower incomes are somehow freeloading.

    I already outlined the fairly simple math above, but here it is in more detail: DC property tax is $0.85/$100 in assessed value over the $67,500 homestead deduction. you said you pay $4k in property taxes a year, meaning your home is assessed at $538,000. Assuming a 10% down payment and 6.5% interest rate, your monthly mortgage interest payment is $2,600, or $31,200. To make that kind of monthly payment, you must be at least in the 33% federal income tax bracket (i.e., more than $171k a year), which is consistent with the income tax you claim to pay. (Anyone crying a river for Anon at this point?)

    So when you artificially reduce your taxable income by deducting $31,200 in mortgage interest on your tax return, you escape $10,000 in taxes you would otherwise have to pay. Non-homeowner taxpayers are required to pay more in taxes than they otherwise would, in order to pay for this massive subsidy to you. Had you not received the benefit of this subsidy, you not only would not have received $6k refund, but you would have owed $4k more to the IRS. Saying that you still paid something is not an argument that you arent subsidized. Welfare recipients pay various kinds of taxes too.

    In any case, this $10k you “get back” is not a “small fraction,” but over a quarter of the tax burden you would otherwise have, absent the subsidy. Where did you think this money you “get back” was coming from, the Tooth Fairy? No, it’s coming from other taxpayers. That’s what makes it a subsidy. You need to return that to the government before you can legitimately criticize low income people receiving far less housing subsidy than you.

  • but anica the tenants aren’t scrounging to buy the building – they’re getting a handout from The Grahamstander.

  • anon 10:42 what kind of calculation led you to believe that someone who can “make that” $3K a month in mortgage payments makes $171K a year?!? seriously?

  • Mt P is already in the process of redevelopment – the land values will be attracitve enough to entice developers (once the credit situation improves.) I think what is needed is to target other areas of the city that have been ignored for much longer. I’d rather support redevelopment that allows city workers to purchase a piece of the city rather than simply rent an apartment.
    Also loans aren’t free. The city subsidises the interest and assumes the liability if the projet fails and the loan isn’t repaid. Now if the tenants could sue the landlord for negligence, get the building free and clear in a settlement then the case for granting a city-subsidized loan would make more sense, especially if they partner with a group that has a proven track record.

  • Anon 11:25, the $2600 I think was just the mortgage interest. So the total payment including principal, taxes, and insurance would be over $3000. $171k might be a little high but someone who owns a $538,000 house probably makes at least close to $150k so I think their point stands (that this is a fairly well-off person whining about relatively miniscule housing assistance to the working poor).

  • someone paying $3K a month for a rowhouse probably has a basement unit they can rent for $1K, so they’re paying $24000 a year in mortgage costs, 1/3 of which is deductible. $171K feels like an extremely high projection for the average income here.

    how do you know we are “whining” about “relatively miniscule” housing assistance? have you seen numbers? people like Jim Graham routinely hand out millions of dollars for these types of projects.

  • Anon, I don’t think you can factor in basement rental income for the bank to qualify you for the loan…. most people who buying a $500k house are making at least $150k. If you’re making much less than that, IMO, you’re stretching yourself too thin but that’s your choice.

  • Anon 11:59 – Completely agree with you. Incidentally, DC already offers a ton of assistance to lower and moderate income residents who are trying to buy, including special programs for DC government workers. It’s a thousand times wiser to give it to individuals who will buy property, and act as positive forces to clean-up neighborhoods than it is to subsidize some kind of right of return for lower-income individuals to move back into a neighborhood that is rapidly changing and and increasing in affluence. Not to mention, homeowners pump a lot more money back into the city coffers and the local economy, so it’s a far better investment on the city’s part.

    Someone needs to remind me why people have a right to live in a given area? We’re not talking about some kind of 50s restricted housing, we’re discussing a neighborhood that is getting to be more high-rent. If I had Irish heritage, would I deserve a subsidy to rent for cheap at 4th and Mass because Swampoodle was there? Should I get taxpayers’ money to rent in Logan because I’m gay? I’m looking to buy and can’t afford to stay in Mount Pleasant as an owner where I have lived for 5 years. Do I deserve more public money than another DC resident of similar circumstances and income is eligible for to make that possible, simply because I currently live there? No. I need to make more money, basically. Admittedly, I am leaving by choice, not being displaced by unfortunate circumstances. But you know what? Sh*t happens. Neighborhoods become unaffordable. Who said you have a right to live by your job? That’s a luxury!

    And incidentally, there’s still a lot of cheap housing in MTP, but not enough to support 15 bodegas. Develop this land as the market dictates, the empty storefronts will disappear, the tax base will grow. And then watch us have the same argument in a few years about Kennedy St or RI Ave in NE, or wherever the people who can’t afford Mount Pleasant any longer move to, families and young kids alike. That’s how it works, fair or not. Why waste money fighting an inexorable force (that incidentally has changed DC form a dangerous laughingstock into a pretty damn cool city).

  • People, these residents aren’t poor people trying to live in a trendy or wealthy neighborhood on the tax payers dime. They are hard working, honest people who lived here BEFORE it was trendy and wealthy. Their building was neglected because the owner likey prefered renting to the trendy and wealthy. This isn’t about redevelopment; its about people’s homes (not an investment condo in a trendy neighborhood). And I wonder how new Mt P residents moved in here on funky loans that lead to a need for bailouts and stimulus plans (ie. tax funded subsidy).

    If you want to live a community that has zero affordable housing and is just populated by upscale, wealthy clones, I suggest check out VA along the orange line. Some of us like having neighbors from all walks of life. And yes I live in on Mt. Pleasant St.

Comments are closed.