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Monday, December 21, 2009

New Life on Dolman Street

Back in August, the Zumwalt Corportation, located in Lafayette Square, sought the demolition of one heavily damaged unit in a trio of row houses on the 1600 block of Dolman Street near Lafayette. The company wished to renovate the remaining two houses while converting the site of the fallen row house to extra parking for their business. You can read the Cultural Resources Office (CRO) report here.

The Lafayette Square Restoration Committee, as well as the local historic district ordinance, does not take demolitions lightly. The apparent collapse on Preston Place just blocks away that I reported on earlier today was just that--a collapse, not a demolition--according to commenter Chris Yunker.

And so, the heavily damaged row house at 1624 Dolman Street did not receive approval for demolition by the Preservation Board during that meeting.

So many times on this blog I cover Preservation Board hearings and lament their outcomes. In this case, I was delighted to walk by the site this November and see it under renovation. The CRO staff report had said the owners found it financially infeasible to repair the structure; I'm glad to see they shored up the money!

To their credit, it was in a pretty pitiful state when the CRO photographed it this past August:

Here's my photograph, from late November:

Dolman Street was originally excluded from Lafayette Square's historic district boundaries. The detrimental effects of this arbitrary exclusion are clear today. Just a block over, on 18th Street, for the extent of the neighborhood, homes that are meticulously restored and maintained are the norm. Yet on Dolman Street, there are still many vacant properties and far too many vacant lots.

I lived in the 1000 block of Dolman Street in 2006. During my stay there, a derelict house across the street succumbed to a powerful storm and collapsed into the street. We had few neighbors as all adjacent homes had been long demolished. And our house even backed to the beautiful Harris Row. The alley between us might as well have been an interstate highway.

Luckily, the intervening years have brought stabilization of some of the properties and even plans for new construction. Case in point: tonight, the Preservation Board will review a proposal to construct a new home atop three vacant lots on the 1200 block of Dolman at the monthly meeting. The CRO staff recommended approval of the designs with some minor modifications. While it would be nice to see a higher density proposal, being able to witness Dolman Street fill up and rejuvenate is a personal pleasure for me.

Happy holidays!


Unknown said...

Glad to see that they are at least stabilizing these buildings. I looked into buying them a few years ago, but the owners were asking $85k per house and you had to buy all three. This was just too much, especially given the condition they were in. So I just bought an LRA home in ONSL instead, so I thank them for that.

These will be great properties once someone is done with them.

Architrave Press said...

I'm glad to see it, too. I attended the LSRC meeting to speak against demo. The roofing co. has owned these buildings for many, many years and allowed the structural defects to get worse and worse, essentially demolition by neglect. The collapse forced them into action at last. At least the street fabric on that end of the block will remain a little more intact. It just remains to be seen if the owners will attempt to sell the buildings again and if they'll be realistic about the asking price. Stay tuned!

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