Twenty-two years later, this great metamorphosis has yet to happen. Duane Deason believes it still can.
In 2004, when Washington’s political leaders were alternately wooing the Montreal Expos and fretting over whether to finance a baseball stadium, the accountant from Alexandria decided to try his hand at the mysterious game of real estate.
Deason is no magnate. He grew up a Foreign Service kid, living in Sweden and Saudi Arabia, then came back for high school and an MBA from Georgetown. His profession is all about numbers — companies hire him as a consultant to scrub their spending. He figured he knew a deal when he saw one.
The long-ignored southern tip of the federal city was suddenly afire with talk of deals. If the city built a stadium in the decrepit industrial zone along the river, and if the concrete plant on the waterfront went away and the strip joints were forced out, the Anacostia might become what riversides are in most big cities: valuable, desirable, livable.
That was a lot of ifs. Which is why the estate of Laszlo Tauber — a Holocaust survivor who built one of the Washington area’s most dazzling real estate empires — was prepared to sell half an acre of riverfront, zoned residential, for a song.
The big national developers were snapping up the largest plots along the Anacostia for mega-projects. They couldn’t be bothered with a scrawny half-acre that wasn’t even near the rumored stadium site. The Tauber lot was on the other side of South Capitol Street, down past Southwest’s housing projects, sandwiched between the headquarters of the U.S. Coast Guard and a string of industrial and semi-abandoned structures.
Tipped to the area by a story in The Post, Deason got in touch with Tauber’s estate and bought the plot for $275,000. He figured it might be worth a whole lot more someday.
“I just felt like waterfront property would eventually pay off,” says Deason, a slim, clean-cut, earnest 44-year-old who lives in Alexandria with his wife and four-year-old son.
When the city finally moved ahead with Nationals Park, Deason felt as if he had gotten the steal of the century. The $693 million stadium sparked wildly optimistic pronouncements of a whole new neighborhood in Southeast. Deason joined with a development company to propose an eight-story condo building for his land.