Coming Soon To Downtown: The District’s Most Valuable Vacant Lot


Washington Business Journal
Nov 18 2013

Michael NeibauerStaff Reporter- Washington Business JournalEmail
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Coming to the heart of downtown Washington: a vacant lot.

The Minneapolis-based Cafesjian Family Foundation Inc. was issued
permits Friday to raze three vacant commercial buildings at 1338, 1340
and 1342 G St. NW, which will leave a 5,700-square-foot empty space
steps from 14th Street. The properties, once home to Clement’s Pastry
Shop, Graffix Tattoo, Natural Nails and Bensonis Italian Kitchen,
have a taxable assessed value of $8.3 million, all but $3,000 of
which is on the land.

The three buildings, briefly classified as blighted by the District
in 2012 and now simply listed as vacant, back up to the historic
National Bank of Washington on 14th Street, the long-planned home of
the Armenian Genocide Museum. The foundation owns all four buildings,
in addition to the office building at 1336 G.

The vacant classification brings a property tax rate of $5 per $100
of assessed value, roughly four times the standard commercial levy –
unless the buildings are knocked down.

Gerard Cafesjian, a wealthy former publisher and Armenian
philanthropist, purchased the G Street properties in 2000 for about
$5.5 million, with the idea of turning them into a contemporary
art museum.

But the art museum was built in the Armenian capital of Yerevan
instead, and Cafesjian conditionally agreed to donate the G Street
buildings to the Armenian Assembly of America for an expansion of
the genocide museum.

The grant agreement between Cafesjian and the Armenian Genocide Museum
nonprofit, an arm of the Armenian Assembly, set Dec. 31, 2010, as
the point at which the properties would be returned if they weren’t
developed. They were not, and neither was the $100 million museum,
which has been caught in lawsuit limbo for half a decade.

As a result, what we’ll have after 13 years of waiting for an Armenian
Genocide Museum is a vacant lot on prime downtown real estate. It’s
unclear what will become of the space – a temporary parking lot isn’t
out of the question, but it would require a variance from the Board
of Zoning Adjustments as the property sits in the Downtown Development
Overlay District.

In any case, this is not progress.

Other permits issued Nov. 15:

3419 14th St. NW: Establish a retail bakery use on the first level of
the building. The work involves the installation of a three-compartment
sink, a hand sink and a mop sink.

1919 M St. NW: Interior alterations to suit new tenant Command
Consulting Group on the second floor. Command Consulting is currently
headquartered at 1501 M St. NW, on the fifth floor. Work at the new
offices will include the conversion of conference rooms, a copy center
and business center to office space, division of the main conference
room to three offices and removal of full height walls to be replaced
with partial height walls.

2822 Pennsylvania Ave. NW: Renovate existing Georgetown space to
accommodate new retail store. No retailer name was provided.

7112 Chestnut St. NW: Construction of a new single-family home.

1503 Gallatin St. NW: New, two-story single-family home on what is
currently a vacant lot.

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