Six-story pop-up in Northwest D.C. prompts lawsuit

Neighbors of the Connecticut Avenue project allege construction-related damage.

Some pop-up condo buildings — those mini-skyscrapers that tower over adjacent and much smaller rowhouses — invite a stream of insults, often involving the words “monster” or “tacky.” Other pop-ups, whose designs complement the neighborhood’s aesthetics, prompt awe.

But in the case of 4113 Connecticut Ave. NW — across from the Intelsat building and near the Van Ness-UDC Metro station — a pop-up-in-progress has triggered a lawsuit.

The neighbors sued the pop-up’s developer this year not because they formally object to the building’s planned height of six stories, with the potential to rise as high as 90 feet. (Although the neighbors do find six stories distasteful, even for that stretch of Connecticut Avenue.)

The neighbors, Samuel Stoleru, an eye surgeon, and his wife, Amy Rosenstadt Stoleru, who works in his office, sued for another reason. They say the builder, while laying the groundwork to squeeze a six-story condo building into a row of 100-year-old Wardmans, has been damaging their two rowhouses next door.

The Stolerus, who own the townhouses at 4115 and 4117 Connecticut Ave. NW, sought an unspecified amount in damages from Connecticut Yankee, a secretive entity that owns 4113 Connecticut Ave. NW, and Michael Weisskopf, a former longtime Washington Post reporter who says he is the property’s “broker.” The couple sued the entity in D.C. Superior Court alleging trespassing and negligence.

Weisskopf declined to comment. He said he was not “at liberty” to name the individuals behind Connecticut Yankee. In a previous interview, he described himself as the broker of a pop-up-in-progress next to Shaw’s Tavern on Sixth Street NW and declined to name that project’s principals.

The Stolerus allege that Connecticut Yankee’s builders accidentally tore into the wall of one of their townhouses next to the construction site, allowing rainwater to flood the floors of both of their rowhouses. The Stolerus, who live in Bethesda, lease those homes to residents and a dentist office.

“These guys are doing buildings like this because they’re relatively small projects, but with all due respect, I think Weisskopf doesn’t have the breadth of experience that’s necessary to do a project of this nature,” said Arnold D. Spevack, the couple’s attorney. “If you go back and look at the permits, he was originally just going to renovate the home, but I believe he realized he paid too much and that he wasn’t going to rent it or sell it for a price to justify what he paid for the building. Then, he had this idea to build up six stories, which was a last-ditch effort to come out of his investment.”

Another pop-up developer, Micheal Watson, the owner of Taja Investments, angered neighbors when he built two pop-ups in the 500 and 900 blocks of K Street NE.

Rodney Pais, a retired Army pilot who lives next door to Watson’s new pop-up at 507 K St. NE, said neighbors vented to the city for months while Taja built his two-unit, three- story condo pop-up.

“We were complaining about the trash and debris during the construction that would blow in the alley or front yards. They also tore up the alley,” Pais said. “The guy’s in the business to make some money, and I understand his side of it to an extent, but the way he went about it wasn’t right.”

(Indeed, allegations about Watson’s construction history in the District have been prominently noted, especially by one local blogger.)

Watson did not return phone calls from The Post seeking comment.

Matt Orlins, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, said pop-up developers mostly trigger resident complaints about the buildings’ heights. The agency, charged with enforcing and interpreting the District’s zoning regulations, receives complaints about pop-up developers’ construction practices, but only on par with the volume of grievances about other construction projects.

The Stolerus and Weisskopf have reached an interim settlement stipulating that Connecticut Yankee “proceed in a certain manner with the construction,” according to Spevack, who said he could not divulge specifics.

The most worrisome part, Amy Rosenstadt Stoleru said, is that the six-story pop-up hasn’t even begun popping up yet.

Ian Shapira is a features writer on the local enterprise team and enjoys writing about people who have served in the military and intelligence communities. He joined the Post in 2000 and has covered education, criminal justice, technology, and art crime.

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