We’ve Seen Many Pop Ups – Check Out a Pop Down


A reader writes:

“A pop DOWN! North Capitol and T Stret, NE.
Looks like a ditch was dug around the house, the basement deepened, and a walkout will be created.”

Wild, I wonder how the cost of building a pop down compares with building a pop up?


20 Comment

  • It was a quaint idea but one that has caused the owner trouble. This renovation into condos was supposed to start renting in February. The single family home was divided into three rentals, but the lot only allows for two so the owner is trying to get a variance to allow it to be rented out as three.

    They dug out to give some private space to the basement unit, but right away had trouble with flooding and keeping the water out of it. What you see in the picture is the wall collapsed last week after all the heavy rains. They will have to rebuild it and figure out a way to prevent it from happening again in the future. They would have been much better off to put in window wells, and X the door. That could have been a nice private side yard for all three units.

    They seem to be doing an nice job inside, hope it becomes productive soon. Good luck to the owner!

    • ah

      Seriously? It’s hard to tell from the angle, but that block wall doesn’t look very well reinforced, including adequate footings, rebar, and concrete to fill the blocks. No wonder it collapsed.

    • My first thought was popdown = moat, especially in this city, where we just had a construction pit turn into a lake.

    • Not sure where Anonymous gets her/his faulty information from?

      Nothing collapsed due to rain–the retaining wall was taken down because the previous contractor didn’t build it to specification. Yes, he did a botched job. He was fired, and another contractor rebuilds the wall according to code.

      There are no flooding issues, and there haven’t been any water problems since the broken main water line was repaired at the beginning of the renovation process last summer. The property had been vacant and the main water line broken for years before the property changed owners; the neighbors can tell you stories about frozen sidewalks in the winter.

      The basement has been a separate legal apartment for decades. In fact, the property used to be a 4-unit apartment building for most of the past century, according to previous Certificates of Occupancy.

      • Holger, I’m in your camp and am one of the 25 neighbors who signed your petition to approve the re-zoning but personally I’d suggest that you stop stating that this building was abandoned for years. Before you purchased the building it was serving as a rooming house and had only been temporarily vacant (couple months maybe) before it was purchased. I like what you’ve done with the building and everything but you really shouldn’t present yourself as a victim or humanitarian here just because you decided to invest in this property.

  • Like anything in construction, going underground is always more expensive than going above ground. See: the Big Dig, the 2nd Ave Subway, etc.

  • Yeah, that thing doesn’t look like it was engineered at all. You don’t eyeball something that height. There isn’t even a French drain to relieve back pressure! I would say “How is it possible that passed permitting and inspection?”, but who am I kidding.

  • A six foot retaining wall with no drainage made mostly from cinder block? This looks like an example of what not to do. You can see what’s left of the wall already starting to lean.

    Nice idea, terrible execution. Hope that’s a bonded contractor. Looks more like a DIY or handyman.

  • How does this stuff get approval from DCRA?

    • It doesn’t. Or the “approval” consisted of a small wad of cash and some misplaced paperwork.

  • One neighbor on our block is almost done digging out his basement, which he is making into a rental unit. Another neighbor is also getting ready to start the dig out process, as well – they just got their DCRA approval, although it took a few months. An engineer said they couldn’t go up, so they’re going down.

  • and folks wonder why there’s so much flooding around here.

  • They gotta put in proper drains here or they are going to have big flooding problems. Going to cost as must as a Popup after that

  • From Eckington Civic Association May meeting minutes: “Martin Sullivan, attorney for the developer, requested community support for a zoning variance for 1845 North Capitol Street NE. The building was renovated from a 2 unit dwelling to a 3 unit dwelling. Historically the building has been a 4 unit dwelling. The owner/contractor will get additional information and current pictures to the community, so that ECA can vote on whether to send a letter of support to the Board of Zoning Adjustment.”

    • This is on the agenda for the ANC5E meeting tonight.

      • Yep, it was a tough situation to watch. Suffice it to say, the ANC voted to not support the re-zoning of this building and did not do a very good job of hearing from the owner himself, especially when it came to this issue of the retaining wall falling down. I would caution people to try and present facts on this site in the comments section rather than speculation. The ANC rep (Sylvia Picnkey) most against the re-zoning actually cited this article as support that the dig out was structurally unsound and would not allow the owner to defend his position that it was sound and that the information presented here was incorrect.

        Something for everyone to keep in mind as this will result in a significant financial burden for the owner (not a developer) who purchased this property. Just my two cents in hearing last night’s discussion.

        • “The ANC rep (Sylvia Picnkey) most against the re-zoning actually cited this article as support that the dig out was structurally unsound . . .”

          What article are you talking about — did you mean this blog posting/thread?

  • These people new perfectly well they were going against zoning by making this single family home into 3 units. Plus they are doing some work on public property saying they should get to use the public side yard because they think it makes sense–NOT because it is legal. Just because they did a nice job on a property that needed fixing up does not give them the right to profit off of purposefully breaking the law–yes, I’m sure they will claim they had no idea that this wasn’t legal for 3 or 4 units, because they stand to majorly profit from that argument. If you let this person illegally build this house you have no right to ever stop anyone else from illegally building their home. Your neighborhood will continue to get more and more bastardized & overcrowded. I’m sure they aren’t evil people, but they took a huge gamble & should lose on this hand. Allow them to have the legal 2 units. Oh, and I find it hard to believe this was a 4 unit house–sounds like it was being used during the depressed years as a flop house–that doesn’t change it’s zoning. They could have been harboring alligators & pythons in the house for years, but it doesn’t make it a legal zoo. I do support good taste in renovations, but not blatant over-building single family homes against zoning law. Allow one–must allow all, but others will not have as good of taste and then you all will be screaming for zoning and DCRA to STOP the illegal building.

    • “Tortoise”/Sylvia Pinkney should have checked the public records and all valid permits (including public space) before fabricating this utter nonsense about illegal building. And this property has never been a single-family home; however, it had been a 4-unit building since well before the 1958 zoning ordinance came into force (with its status grandfathered); it was converted into a 2-family flat more than 30 years later. Well, she knows that her claims are false, but she keeps spreading blatant lies. If anything, this reveals a lot about her character…

Comments are closed.