Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Derelict Property of the Week, 7/21-28

[Photo in post above]

This property at 819-821 Q Street is part of a larger parcel that also includes 816 and 818 Rhode Island Avenue. The owner is Michael D. Sendar, an attorney and owner of Big Wheel Bikes (in Georgetown and other locations), whose residence is at 8708 Brickyard Road, Potomac, MD.

According to a neighborhood source, Sendar bought the property about 15 years ago for roughly $125,000. For about seven years Sendar rented the property to the Nubian Islaamic Hebrew cult (now known as the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors--see their website) whose bizarre and noisy rites were a thorn in the side of nearby residents. They decamped for Putnam County, Georgia about 2001. The place has been vacant ever since.

A few years ago, according to the same source, the luxe condo developer Abdo offered $800K to buy the property, but Sendar held out for more and the deal never happened. The asking price nowadays is said to be about $1.25 million.

The deteriorated and reportedly rotted and termite-infested interior of the buildings is disguised by Afro-centric murals and an acidly-hilarious trompe l’oeil facade painted by a neighborhood resident, whose identity is an open secret (no snitchin’ here). It has become something of a alternative tourist attraction and was the subject of a couple of Washington City Paper pieces.

According to public tax records, the 2006 tax assessment for the three properties amounts to $489,170—a far cry from the reported asking price. The taxes are shown as paid up, except for unpaid “Clean City” charges of $675 going back to 2000 and a “special assessment” of $245 from this year. The total tax bill for 2006 is shown as $9048, which means that the regular commercial tax rate of $1.85/100 is being applied.

This is odd, because all of these properties are on the official DC list of vacant properties , which supposedly means they incur a penalty rate of $5/100. If applied, that would put the tax bill at about $24,460. Could it be that one hand of the DC government doesn't know what the other hand is doing? Or, even worse, could the tax assessors have mistaken the fake facade for the real thing?

Ironically, Sendar has presented himself as a champion of the little guy in the takeover by commercial developer EastBanc of the Georgetown property where Big Wheel Bikes operated. (According to a January 24 WaPo article, he also made a pitch to go to work for the Nationals baseball team.)

Most deliciously, in a WCP article about church-owned vacant properties in Shaw impeding improvement of commercial property, Sendar was quoted as saying: “It’s frustrating, you own something, you want to make it nice, and the obstacles are manifold.” Yeah, man, ain't it a bitch.

Suggestions for next week are welcome.

Last week's featured property.


At 8/23/2006 6:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! I've always wanted to know what was up with that place... that's an amazing amount of behind-the-scenes information.

At 8/23/2006 8:39 AM, Blogger si said...

Bistro au ghetto, toujours ferme!

great research. we are in the process of doing the same thing down in mount vernon square where we have 50-70 vacant properties & lots (in about 7 squares), many of them church owned, most of them not taxed at the max rate. I have a feeling this problem is vast & citywide.

At 8/23/2006 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems the derelict owner would sell or occupy in an instant if he was actually taxed at the rate he's supposed to be. But the owner has the intertia of 1000 wanna-do-nothing city bureaucrats on his side. Undoubtedly and unfortunately, nothing will change.

At 8/23/2006 2:56 PM, Blogger si said...

Unless we change it. report it to DCRA & OTR.


Post a Comment

<< Home