Dear PoP – How Does a House get Razed in a Historic District?

“Dear PoP,

I saw in an Everyblock update that a permit has been issued for the razing of 820 C St. SE. Attached is a screenshot from Google Maps Streetview. It does look like the house is boarded up and in really bad shape, but it also looks like it shares not only a wall but architectural features with the adjoining house. It seems like it would have had to be in REALLY dire shape for demolition to have been ok’d in the Capitol Hill Historic District.”

I put an inquiry in to DCRA but they must be focused on food trucks because I haven’t heard from back them. So maybe some readers happen to know? Does it just require an ‘ok’ from the Capitol Hill Historic District? From the photo there don’t seem to be too many extraordinary features. Would taking down this home damage the adjoining wall?

11 Comment

  • I’ve walked by this house for more than 10 years. I’ve been shocked that it hasnt been renovated cause its less than a block from eastern market. I assume that the demolition by neglect has been accomplished by the owners and they will try to build a small condo or something.

    • The rumor is that the owners died and their children were fighting over who had the rights to the property.

      If true the losers lost the best chance to sell and make a boadload.

  • ah

    If properly done one can retain the party wall between the two houses while demolishing the rest.

    To get a raze permit requires Historic District review/sign off.

  • For what it is worth, that house is in really, really bad shape. I’d assume the front and party walls will be retained. This was done to the house next to mine. Very weird looking in from the back and seeing nothing but the front wall and our party walls on each side.

  • They use a historic bulldozer.

  • What you quickly learn is that the historic district’s “rules” are largely for suckers. Any half way savvy developer can get around them. It may take a little time, but you can avoid them completely.

    As a homeowner, you’re largely screwed. Everything is reviewable by the historic rep, so you can’t get a postcard permit for anything. So you make a decision as to whether you skip the permit and take your chances, or you don’t do the project.

  • I think it also depends if the building is considered a “contributing structure”. Not all buildings in historic districts are considered to be contributing structures.

  • Just to add on to what was already said, sometimes HPRB will actually push towards the raze of the old structure if the new proposed building will be a better fit with the historic character of the block. This sounds strange, but it actually makes sense in that a new building with a lot of historic attributes would be a better use of the lot than the beat-up house that is there now.

  • It doesn’t.

  • It also may be an attempt to avoid paying blighted property tax: “property can not be considered “vacant” if the owner is trying to rent or sell the building, or has an application pending on it with any one of several governing agencies like the National Capital Planning Commission or the Board of Zoning Adjustment.) If none of the exceptions apply, a DCRA inspector will then inspect the property in question”.

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