Cool Shot of What One Day Will be Something Cool – Hopefully in my Lifetime

Georgia and W Street, NW

Thanks to a reader for sending:

“Was checking out the new condos at the Atlantic Plumbing building and was amazed (in a not so good way) to see the state of this building’s roof. I hope Howard University does something with the building!!”

The potential is incredible…

28 Comment

  • I saw this a few weeks ago – simply amazing how much of the roof has collapsed into the building. The Howard Administration is such a disaster. Doubt we will see something nice here for a decade.

  • Someone please do something cool with the Bond bread factory (white building) too.

  • I remember how stunned I was when I learned that that building — which I had thought for years was an abandoned warehouse — was actually owned by Howard. I was amazed that a university would be such a poor steward of its property.

    • I can’t imagine what Howard uses that building for, or why it couldn’t easily be replaced with a cheaper option further from campus.

      • The building has been unused for years (decades?). There’s lettering on the Georgia Avenue side that says “Accounts Department” (or “Accounts [something]”). Some of the lettering has fallen off, though, so now it says ACC UNTS.

    • justinbc

      Why is it really that they’re so notoriously bad? Sometimes it sounds as if they just purposely act against their own interests.

      • Needier than average student body. Less wealthy than average alumni network.
        They’re better off than a lot of HBCUs, but the same challenges still exist. They have had their share of idiots in administration, but either way… do people really expect them to have the same kind of money as Harvard or even Georgetown?

  • BTW, I think the photo shows 8th Street (on the left of the photo) and V Street (on the right), not Georgia and W.

  • As someone who has lived near Howard for 6 years, I am continually shocked at how Howard doesn’t take care of its infrastructure on campus. I feel bad for the kids who go there.

  • I wish when I moved into the neighborhood I had taken a photo of the sign on that building that said “HOWARD TOWN CENTER – DELIVERING FALL 2004”

  • Howard should sell this building to a developer, take the cash, and perform maintenance on their other buildings.

  • I think the criticism of Howard is justified, but I have to admit that Georgia Ave looks way better now that they have the new buildings there. Hopefully they keep doing more development

  • With all of the financial problems that Howard is having (widely known to be reduced enrollment as well as great hospital woes), they should sell this land! Shouldn’t they be held to the same DC “vacant building” taxation as other Vacant building? I should think they should be taxed as such and then Howard would come to learn what good property management is and sell these very desirable parcels.

  • Howard is having all sorts of financial trouble. Part of it is associated with financing trouble in academia in general, part of it is HBCUs in general, and part of it is because the liberal arts/undergraduate component of the school has not really adapted to meet the needs of todays students. Every other week they have some financial problem, they just eliminated 84 staff positions the first week of April.
    So isn’t this the perfect time to sell off excess land you might ask? I suspect many faculty, donors, and administrators see selling parcels for development as (a) a sign that Howard’s problems are indicative of a permanent decline in enrollment, not a temporary symptom (it is), (b) selling out the black culture it seeks to preserve by contributing to gentrification (debatable), and (c) a poor financial decision vs. developing the parcels themselves (will never happen).
    We’ll see what happens. I have no personal knowledge of campus administrators. But knowing campus politics elsewhere I would say it is extremely unlikely we will see changes to any Howard owned parcels anytime soon. I don’t see them selling to developers and I don’t see them as having the organization to develop parcels effectively themselves.
    I hope Howard turns itself around. Several of the schools can still be saved (law and medical most obviously) but I don’t seem the school heading in a good direction at the moment.

    • I think everything you’re saying is right. But Howard could be choosy about the developer it hires and what gets built there. It could be a mix of housing for very low income people, workforce housing, and market rate, with a day care center on the bottom. That would be a huge community asset and they could still make money.

      • You’re missing the point. Many Howard stakeholders will see ANY ceding of Howard parcels as a sign of the permanent decline of the University which they fail to acknowledge. If they somehow could agree to give up a small amount some would argue for affordable housing, etc. while others would argue to do the fiscally responsible thing for the school and maximize the money they get out of it. There is too much bureaucracy and in fighting so instead nothing will get done.
        Frankly I would be shocked if even 20% of the disused Howard owned parcel are developed 20 years from now.

        • Then they should keep it as an investment, much like GW routinely does. Sure, that part of DC is not nearly as affluent as Foggy Bottom/West End, but a building of that size, in a growing, thriving neighborhood, could easily generate a sizable return on investment for an institution like Howard.

          The school is in a unique position right now having a lot of properties in a part of town where growth is scorching hot. They need to capitalize on it, and I assume they will, but the school, as many have said, doesn’t have the greatest track record here.

      • This comment from “agreed” underscores how difficult Howard’s situation is. If even two stakeholders within the university have “choosy” visions for how to use its scarce real estate resources, it quickly gets very intractable to get any agreement. “Oh, but guys, this would be so easy if we all agree to MY vision.”

    • I’ve no inside knowledge of the particulars of Howard’s financial woes, but It *feels* like the school is going through a re-awakening with a new president, several new campus buildings and some probably needed staff cuts. As smaller HBCUs struggle, it seems that Howard’s appeal and value proposition has increased.

      • Unlikely. The demise of other HBCUs is just prolonging Howard’s descent. They can get all the students who would have gone elsewhere and gobble up all the grant money. They don’t seem to be addressing fundamental changes in the market that affect all of higher education.

  • In 100 years we’ll all be dead but Howard will still be around. Colleges, Universities, and other similar institutions can think or do nothing, on extremely long timelines that have little correlation with how much we local mortals would love for them to do with their property.

    Also BTW they are considering this or adjacent north parking lot for a new Wizards training facility. So yeah could have great development potential in the mid term. since 2000 They have wanted to knock this down and build a 10 story building similar in height to the JBG Atlantic Plumbing site. Preservationists are now trying to block any raze permit.

    • …. and I also believe vacant land on university property preferential treatment to vacant land of private landowners. So its much cheaper for them to sit and wait than it would be for a developer or other investor.

  • Howard U has had development plans for these properties, but were stymied by opposition from the Historic Preservation League.

  • For those interested in some of the relatively recent news, google ‘bond bread building howard historic’ will turn up a couple articles over the last few years.

  • I think that Howard is right for sitting on this property! They are perhaps using the same reasoning as many other developers and landowners in DC. I think this has a lot less to do with the school’s administration or HBCU status and more to do with the changing nature of DC.

    Let’s not forget what this area was like before all the current interest in Shaw and “North End Shaw”.
    Howard bought lots of property (that no one cared about at the time) as a way to buffer its main campus and also extend its footprint.

    I think that in due time this parcel will be developed like others. Howard has– in the past–had plans in the works but has met some challenges and opposition. I’m sure now that their affluent neighbors at Atlantic Plumbing consider it an eyesore, we’ll see some sort of development happen there– and hopefully Howard gets big money for it.

  • Does anybody else think abandoned buildings are beautiful in a way? I’m very fascinated by the idea that the structures we occupy can visibly show the absence of life, or death, when they are deserted. It’s like our lives give the structures we occupy life as well. This building obviously needs to be revitalized, but I’m going to miss it – it reminds of the way DC felt when I was growing up.

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