- The Washington Times - Monday, May 29, 2000

Developer plans apartments

The D.C. Financial Control Board has signed a contract to sell the dilapidated Roosevelt Hotel near Adams Morgan to a developer for $10.1 million.

D.C.-based Georgio Furioso plans to turn the vacant building at 16th and V streets NW into apartments.

The deal is the latest chapter in a nearly yearlong effort to redevelop the site. A sale would help accelerate redevelopment taking place around 16th and U streets NW. But a dispute over competing bids has hurt the confidence of developers and left the building in disrepair, critics said.

"The Control Board let the building decay," said Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, a civic group. That delay added cost by forcing the District to pay for extra security and maintenance at the building, he said.

A sale would clear the way for restoring the building, rejuvenating the neighborhood and even creating construction jobs for local residents, he said.

Before a sale closes, a tenants group will have the chance to match the offer, which was approved May 19. Under D.C. law, residents have the right of first refusal to buy their apartment buildings when it goes up for sale. A Control Board official who asked not to be named said that law does not apply to the board, but they want to give the residents a fair chance.

The Concerned Senior Citizens of the Roosevelt Tenant Association, which represents about 30 former residents of the hotel, previously offered $4.9 million for the building, but the city rejected the offer, said Pamela Jones, executive director of New Columbia Community Land Trust. The nonprofit housing developer is working with the residents, who have lined up an unidentified developer and plan to match the new offer.

"The tenant association will be able to do that one way or the other," she said.

The District put up the building for sale last year, but midway through the process, it was conveyed to the Control Board as collateral in a deal to bail out Greater Southeast Community Hospital.

Last fall, the Philadelphia-based developer Amerimar Enterprises said it was told by officials at the Department of Housing and Community Development that its $8.3 million bid would be accepted. The company planned to build condos at the site.

This choice was made despite a higher, $9 million bid from Mr. Furioso, who questioned whether DHCD chose correctly. By February, the Control Board sided with Mr. Furioso, who had raised his bid to $10 million.

DHCD favored Amerimar's offer because it was an all-cash deal and they planned to build condos, which encourage home ownership, said Othello Mahone, interim director of DHCD. Mr. Furioso's apartment plans depended upon federal Housing and Urban Development financing, which could extend the project by months, he said.

The Control Board wanted to line up the highest bid, according to the Control Board official.

Developers said the process left them with perplexing questions when considering their own plans.

"Clearly there was some confusion about who controlled the process," said Jon Cummins, who runs Amerimar's multifamily and hotel business. But he said he wasn't uncomfortable doing projects in the District. The company has no trouble running its existing D.C. property, the Hotel George, he said.

Another developer agreed that the process should be clearer, boosting builders' confidence.

"I just hope that that's not the way. We all anticipate the process will improve," said Steve Etminani, who heads regional operations of Atlanta-based residential developer Post Properties.

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