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Long a Kalorama Heights Eyesore, Empty Building Soon to be New Apartments

By Hunter Gorinson*

[Note: Photographs accompanying this news story in the print edition can be viewed in the full PDF copy in the Current & Back Issues Archive.]

The Kalorama/Adams Morgan neighborhood will soon have one less dilapidated tinderbox for neighbors to revile. Located at 2110 19th Street, NW, the three-story apartment building at the site has gone from bad to worse over the past half decade. Luckily for area preservationist aficionados, however, renovation (if you can call throwing out everything except the façade a renovation) is currently underway and, once completed, this real estate ugly duckling will emerge a swan — courtesy of DC apartment developer and management company Keener-Squire Properties and the architects of Eric Colbert and Associates.

Originally known as The Hilltop, residents of the then 15-unit tenement — described by the Washington Post at the time as a “badly deteriorated building” — were bought out of their leases in 2005. Another District development company, Nicol Development, then tried its hand at culling 22 condominiums out of the building shortly thereafter and summarily failed, leaving nothing but a condemned husk of a building in what was (ironically enough) one of the District’s more desirable neighborhoods. But then 2007 happened, and Nicol lost control of four local projects, this one to the lender. The property had been informally floated above $5 million by Nicol, then more formally listed at $3.8 million but still no takers. Cut to the summer of 2008, when Keener-Squire was able to pick it up at the “fixer-upper” special rate of $2.1 million.

“My client bought it at auction,” said architect Eric Colbert. “Someone had tried to develop it a while back, but they didn’t know what they were doing and wound up abandoning the project. . . . It must have been at least five or six years [since people lived there.]”

That’s about to change. Keener-Squire is currently projecting a 12-month timetable for a complete renovation of the once roughshod apartment complex. The building’s original 25,000 square-foot shell will receive an extra 5,000 feet during the course of the build-out, allowing for a total of 35 new residential units and two new floors. Keener-Squire’s in-house general contractor, Wayne Construction, is overseeing work at the site. Sources say the building is being designed as rental apartments, but, as always, market forces will ultimately dictate the final outcome.

*This article was first published on April 17, 2009 by The Urban Real Estate Digest of Washington, DC in its blog (, and made available for reprint here through the courtesy of its editor and CEO of, Ken Johnson.

Copyright (c) 2009 InTowner Publishing Corp. & All rights reserved.