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District Moves Toward Eminent Domain Acquisition for Hotel

Monday, March 26, 2007

District officials are proceeding with their plan to acquire a locksmith shop at the corner of Ninth and L streets NW to make way for a convention center hotel, according to D.C. officials and the owner of the shop.

Whit Conway, who leases the space for his Central Safe and Locksmith, said a District appraiser came to his store Wednesday. "It looks like they're moving expeditiously," he said.

Conway, who has been at the location since 1980, said he and the owners of the parcel of land received letters Nov. 30 notifying them of the District's plans. The property is key to completing the acquisition of land needed to build a hotel with about 1,400 rooms at Massachusetts Avenue and Ninth Street NW.

The District had said it hoped to acquire the property by the first quarter but now says its goal is the end of the year. Construction on the hotel is expected to start next year.

Last summer, the District approved the use of eminent domain to acquire the site of the locksmith shop.

Conway, who has eight years left on his lease, won a lawsuit in October requiring that his landlord buy out the lease if the property is sold. Two weeks later, he said, the District said that if it took the land through eminent domain, it could relieve the landlord of any obligation or payment for Conway's lease.

A letter sent to Conway said the appraiser would determine fair market value. After that, the District will make an offer and negotiate with the landlord. If they can't come to an agreement, the District will use eminent domain to acquire the land.

-- Amy Joyce

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