Several of the District's most distinctive publicly owned properties could go on the auctioneer's block for sale to private developers this summer, if the city council approves a revenue-raising plan being pushed by the Barry administration.
The landmark firehouse at 3212 M St. NW -- which served as the town hall of Georgetown in the 1870s -- is a prime candidate for public auction, possibly as early as July, according to city officials involved with Mayor Marion Barry's plan.
Other city-owned real estate the administration wants to put up for immediate sale includes the landmark Georgetown incinerator at 31st and Water streets NW; the Corcoran School at 2715 M St. NW; commercially valuable vacant lots at 13th and N streets NW and at 33rd and P streets NW; plus two police stations, five schools and three fire stations.
A proposal outlining the sale of 27 properties is under study by the city council's Government Operations Committee. The full council will have to approve designation of the real estate as "surplus" before the city can proceed to put it on the market. That vote is likely sometime in late June or early July.
The mass sale of publicly owned real estate, which the District has begun quietly promoting in brochures to developers and other potential bidders, is intended to raise at least $14.7 million by the fall. The sale proceeds are included as a revenue item in the mayor's 1981 budget package for the fiscally strapped city government.
Although the District occasionally has sold individual parcels of public property during the past 50 years, it has never held a public real estate auction and has never disposed of so many buildings and lots in such a concentrated period, according to Jean Oliver, director of the mayor's Office of Surplus Property.
Oliver said the precise amount that will be raised by the sale will depend on the choice of marketing methods used. For the most commercially attractive buildings or land -- such as the historic Georgetown "Old Engine Co. No. 5" firehouse and the lot at 13th and N streets NW -- public auctions on the site "will probably get us the top dollar." For other properties, Oliver said, the city will advertise for sealed bids from interested purchasers.
The real estate will all be sold to the highest bidder, with no restrictions imposed on the ultimate use of the property, beyond existing zoning, building code and historic preservation requirements.
"We're getting calls from people who've got tremendous ideas for some of the properties," said Oliver. The incinerator site especially, with its towering smokestack and 53,000 square feet of land zoned for mixed-use waterfront development, is attracting investors' attention as a potential site for a dinner theater-restaurant, office and residential complex, he noted.
Zoning on the Georgetown firehouse permits it to be used for anything from a diplomatic chancery owned by a foreign government to a condominium development.
Zoning on the Corcoran School at 2715 M also would permit at least part of the property to be turned into a chancery, commercial office space or a mixed-use development. The school sits on a prime 33,000-square-foot lot in the middle of one of the city's booming office construction areas.
One of the three city officials coordinating the sale of the 27 real estate parcels, architect Floyd Holliday of the D.C. Department of General Services, predicted private investors "will be panting to get bids in on" certain of the properties this summer.
"Imagine the opportunity to buy one of those firehouses or schools and turn it into something new and different," he said. "Its a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing."
D.C. Board of Realtors Executive Vice President James Banks agreed that there will be "significant" interest in the properties by local and outside investors, but questioned the city's strategy of using public auctions to dispose of any of the buildings or lots.
Properties to be auctioned are:
Old Engine Company #5, 3212 M St. NW; Corcoran School, 2715 M St. NW; Vacant Lot, 1529 Church St. Nw; Old Firehouse #9, 1624 U St. NW; Morgan Annex, 2428 17th St. NW; Engine Company #4 Lot, 910 Euclid St. NW; Engine Company #4 Lot, 928 Euclid St. NW; Mott Elementary School, 4th & W & Bryant streets NW; Old Firehouse #9, 931 R. St. NW;
Morse Elementary School, 440 R St. NW; Northwest Garage, 1323 Naylor Court NW; Parking Lot, 13th & N streets NW; Old Firetruck Company #4, 219 M St. Nw; Old Eckington Elementary School, 1615 First St. NE; Crummel Elementary School, 1900 Galludet St. NE; Old Police Precinct #9, 529 9th St. NE; Lovejoy-Edmonds House, 403 11th St. NE; Vacant Lot, South Capital and M street SW;
Parking Lot, 3rd & E streets NW; H Street Overpass between 2nd & 3rd streets NE; Old Police Precinct #11, 2301 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE; Vacant Lot P & 33rd streets NW; Georgetown Incinerator, 31st & Water streets NW; Vacant Lot, 1251 Bladensburg Rd. NE; Vacant Lot, 304 M St. NW; Vacant Lot 2nd & E streets SW; Lenox Annex, 4th & M streets SE.