HPA No. 1981-521 (In re. Bond Building)
- HPA Number: 1981-521
- Case Name: Application for a demolition permit for a building located at 1406 New York Avenue, N.W., Lot 18, Square 223
- Location of Property: 1406 New York Avenue, N.W., Lot 18, Square 223
- Date of Decision: 05/11/81
- Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought: Demolition
- Disposition: Denied
- Date of Case Summary: 07/06/07
Summary of Decision:
MB Associates/Blake Construction Company/Bond Associates (collectively, “Applicant”) applied for a permit to demolish the Bond Building, an individually designated Category III Landmark on the District of Columbia’s Inventory of Historic Sites, and to construct a new building on the site. The Mayor’s Agent denied the application, finding that the project was not one of special merit and that denial of the permit did not impose an unreasonable economic hardship on Applicant. Applicant failed to provide specific architectural or finalized design plans for the proposed new building, which precluded the Mayor’s Agent from finding the project to be one of special merit based on exemplary architecture because the design was subject to change. In addition, the Mayor’s Agent dismissed Applicant’s arguments that the project was one of special merit based on other grounds, such as economic revitalization and integration in design and use of adjacent properties, because these factors are “common to rehabilitation and/or new construction projects in the Downtown area of the District of Columbia.” Finally, denying the permit did not impose an unreasonabe economic hardship on Applicant because Applicant failed to prove that it could not either use the building, rehabilitate it and receive a reasonable return on its investment, or sell the building.
Mayor’s Agent – Procedural:
• Applicant has the burden of proving a case of unreasonable economic hardship, and, to meet this burden, Applicant must demonstrate that denial of the demolition permit will preclude it from reasonable use of its property or return on its investment.
• The applicant has the burden of proving a case of special merit.
Unreasonable Economic Hardship:
Applicant’s claim of unreasonable economic hardship failed because Applicant failed to prove: “(1) that it cannot use the Bond Building; (2) that it could not rehabilitate the Bond Building and obtain a reasonable return on its investment and; (3) that it cannot sell the Bond Building for a profit.” Thus, Applicant’s claim failed because it did not prove that there were no other reasonable alternatives to the proposed demolition project and did not prove “that there is no reasonable use left in the property that would preclude [just] compensation.” The Mayor’s Agent also submitted that (although Applicant had not contemplated a sale), if Applicant sold the building for its current assessed value of $2,209,000 that would result in a 30% profit over the acquisition cost. There was extensive discussion about whether existing floors needed to be removed, or if they could be rehabilitated, to withstand increased load capacity; the Mayor’s Agent concluded that Applicant did not consider additional alternatives that could have resulted in different cost analyses for this project.
Project of Special Merit – Exemplary Architecture:
Applicant proposed preserving the existing façade of the building and incorporating it into a new building, which Applicant argued would ensure the stabilization of the façade, minimize visibility of the new façade from street level, and result in material and modular match of the new construction with the existing façade. The Mayor’s Agent rejected the claim of special merit due to exemplary architecture because Applicant did not present “definite decisions on design details of the exterior surfaces, and materials to be used in the new construction nor on the actual technique for the preservation of the façade.” Since it was uncertain that the design presented would actually be executed, the special merit claimed failed.
Project of Special Merit – Social or Other Benefits Having a High Priority for Community Services:
Applicant argued that the proposed building’s inclusion of parking, an interior courtyard, and office and retail tenants would contribute to the revitalization of the downtown area and cause an influx of private investment capital. In addition, Applicant claimed that integrating the proposed building with adjacent properties produced a benefit having a high priority for community services. The Mayor’s Agent rejected these claims because “these are factors that are common to rehabilitation and/or new construction projects in the Downtown area of the District of Columbia.”
The building is also the subject of a later Mayor’s Agent decision, HPA No. 84-255, in which a later “partial” demolition permit application was granted to allow the retention of the entire facade. This so-called “façade” project was allowed in the 1980s when preservation efforts were still in their infancy; but are no longer looked upon with favor after the Mayor’s Agent decision in St. Patrick’s Church case HPA 99-219, 220,221 (1999)
Files in this item
- Full text of order.pdf
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Government of the District of Columbia. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs; Government of the District of Columbia. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. Office of Adjudication (1989)