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New Apartments Slated for 15th & S Streets; Developer Seeks Controversial DC Tax Break

Accompanying images can be viewed starting on page 1 of the October 2018 issue pdf

 By William G. Schulz

 A community meeting to discuss plans for a 150-unit apartment building on a vacant lot behind the iconic 16th Street, NW Masonic Temple will be held on October 18 at 7 pm in the ballroom of the Chastleton Apartments at 1701 16th Street. Anyone concerned about the project, or who would simply like more information, is invited to attend, says host ANC 2B 04 Commissioner Nick DelleDonne.

DelleDonne says the gathering is an opportunity to hear about building plans directly from the developer, Perseus, which recently submitted a project design concept to the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). The Masons are hoping that the apartment building, in one of the city’s most sought-after neighborhoods, will provide a long-term income stream to support their own activities and operations.

HPRB will hold a public hearing on the project sometime before the end of the calendar year. Detailed plans for the project are available on the Perseus website.

The Masons are seeking a $22 million tax abatement for the project in order to offset maintenance and repair bills for the existing temple building. The request, formally opposed by ANC 2B in a 2017 resolution, has also met with scorn and skepticism in the wider Dupont Circle community.

In a city where developers continue to pour billions of dollars into new residential real estate projects, tax abatement opponents say they hardly seem necessary and that community benefits negotiated with developers rarely offset the tax abatement windfall. In the Mason’s case, even the DC Office of the Chief Financial Officer has deemed a tax break for them to be unnecessary.

But the Masons and Perseus have not given up. As reported by DelleDonne, “Last week, I met with the project developer’s representative, former Councilmember John Ray. He is asking the ANC to reconsider its resolution based on their updated plans. saying the current resolution is not valid.”

In a written response to our questions, Adam Peters, head of development and construction at Perseus, responded that “[t]he Tax Abatement is a separate matter that the Scottish Rite is pursuing. There are a number of community benefits that come with the application that will be discussed when that application moves forward. We are a party to that application, as well, but it is not on the agenda for the meeting on the 18th.”

The meeting agenda circulated by DelleDonne lists the tax abatement as topic number two; conversation on neighborhood listservs indicate that some community members want the tax abatement issue to be agenda item number one.

Copyright © 2018 InTowner Publishing Corp. & William G. Schulz. All rights reserved.