Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wrapped in Billboard, Mansion Rots at 11th and K

2004 Official DC File Photo of 1001 11th Street NW
Why is it that in the District it is perfectly legal to take a grand old mansion, board it up, wrap it in a billboard, surround it with a chain link fence, ring it with barbed wire, and pay the typical commercial property tax rate...late, no less?

Welcome to 1001 11th Street NW, just two blocks west of the Washington Convention Center smack in the middle of Logan Circle and downtown.  It's the perfect location... for billboard blight.

Back in the day, this was the home of General Harrison Allen, according to Victorian Secrets.  After helping push back Lee at Gettysburg, Allen entered politics first in Pennsylvania and then in the new Dakotas.

 “In General Allen's Washington, the most fashionable addresses were on K Street NW. However, the most elite mansions were slightly west. The more easterly blocks of K Street were more the province of complementary-styled townhouses clustered about a flamboyantly turreted central house. An outstanding example, the nine Second Empire houses of Mount Vernon Row, stood at Tenth and K Streets NW.  The house, listed as 1017 K Street, appears to have been a mini-version of a row, with complementary-styled smaller houses at 1015 K and 1001 Eleventh Street attached to either wing.”

Official DCRA Photo of Approved 75' x by 30' Billboard
Since July 2003, Allens old digs have been owned by Jemal's Bulldogs (aka Doug Jemal), who bought the property for $650,000.  About a year after purchase, the building was in the condition to the right, as seen in the official DC photograph that appears in property records.  Three months later, Jemal received approval to use the property as 1 of just 32 "special signs" in the District, aka billboards.  For the past six years, Jemal has rented the space to Van Wagner, the outdoor advertising giant that explicitly takes credit for "initiat[ing] the legislative changes that led to the authorization of advertising murals, in Washington, DC."  In turn, Van Wagner proclaims, "Today, we are the market leader and operate most of the lawfully permitted sites in the highly coveted District."

The billboard, I mean, special sign, I mean, mural at 11th and K is 75 feet long and 30 feet high.  It wraps the building, which is likely deteriorating underneath, while the owner likely brings in tens of thousands of dollars of advertising revenue each month.  The property is recorded with the District for store/miscellaneous use.

11th and K Streets Today
Although the property is clearly vacant and some would consider it a blight, Jemal pays neither the vacant property rate of $5 per $100 value or the blighted property tax of $10 per $100.  Instead, he pays the regular commercial property tax of 1.65%.

The property has tripled in value since Jemal purchased it seven years ago - it is assessed by the city at $1.9 million.  Although Jemal must rake in the dough on this property, his company still seems to have a history of repeatedly being late in paying its already low taxes, then paying fines. In fact, the property was listed for tax sale in 2007 after it came up over $25k short.

By the way... wonder how Van Wagner got its self-serving legislation through?  Look no further than campaign finance records.  In 2005, the advertiser contributed $10,000 to Jack PAC, the now defunct slush fund of Councilmember Jack Evans.  Most likely, this was a reward for shepherding through the legislation.  Van Wagner also maxed out with a $1,000 contribution to the Evans' campaign in 2003.   While Evans took the lions share, others benefited.  Van Wagner contributed $2,000 and $1,000 to the reelection campaigns of Mayor Anthony Williams and Chairwoman Linda Cropp in 2001.  Councilmembers Harold Brazil and David Catania received smaller donations.

Isn't it about time to get rid of the mural at 11th and K, save this historic building, and return it to productive use?


si said...

Thus building makes me so sad. It took me about 2yrs of bitching to get dc to tell Mr Clean to secure this dump-it's yard and stairwells were populated by vagrants 24-7. I cannot tell you how many times I saw some guy taking a POO in broad daylight. This place sits between a large youth hostel & a big souvenir shop that the buses come to. The tourists mustve enjoyed the daily show & the rank stench. Now it's got trees growing out of it. A textbook case of demolition by neglect. If it falls, jemal gets to build a 13 story prime k st office building. That's nice.

Anonymous said...

What a disgusting state of affairs. Is there no plan for this area. Should not DC be fining the owner for subjecting us to this obnoxious advertising and public health hazard?

Anonymous said...

sure - blame it on the guy that spanked you in the council race. sounds good to me!

Anonymous said...

Douglas has a number of the special signs. In addition to this, the Douglas HQ, the old arena behind union station and the NY-AVE parking lot. I'm sure there's more, those were just ones near my house that irked me. 4 out of 32..