The Church of Scientology has purchased a historic Dupont Circle mansion with a complex zoning and financial history, and says it will use the building for offices and other church purposes.

The Fraser mansion at the corner of 20th and R streets NW was built in the 1890s for former congressman George Fraser and has housed a series of restaurants since the 1920s. The last restaurant, Fourways, closed about four years ago. The building has been empty since then as its owner grappled with bankruptcy court and unsuccessfully tried to sell it.

"We plan to use it as a church facility," Scientology spokeswoman Pat Jones said. "We really appreciate the historic value of the property and plan to keep it that way."

Jones said the church plans interior renovations, which it will show to community groups this spring. She pointed out that because the building is in the Dupont Circle historic district, exterior changes aren't allowed. The church already has cleaned up much of the trash that accumulated around the abandoned building.

The church purchased deeds of trust on the building from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. last year for $1.5 million and then foreclosed, buying the building at the foreclosure auction March 25 for $2.7 million, Jones said. The FDIC ended up with the loans after the failure of the National Bank of Washington in 1990. The last owner, Bermuda restaurateur Walter Sommer, paid $2 million for the building in 1981 and put at least $3 million into restoring it, according to published accounts.

Sommer spent 1987 and 1988 struggling to get the property's zoning changed so he could build a condominium in the restaurant's parking lot. Local residents bitterly opposed the change. The zoning is residential, not commercial; the restaurant use was grandfathered in. "The zoning relief came too little, too late to be of help," said Michael B. McGovern, a D.C. lawyer who represented Fourways.

During the zoning fight, Sommer repeatedly said he would go bankrupt if he wasn't able to develop the property. He was right. Fourways filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1989, McGovern said.

Sommer tried to sell to pay creditors. Stanley Holland, a Smithy Braedon broker who has spent more than two years marketing the mansion, said Sommer started off asking $7 million for it. Various chanceries and embassies looked, but none bought, he said, even though the asking price eventually fell to $3 million.

"He {Sommer} was always ahead of the market," Holland said. "He thought it was worth more than it was."

High-profile downtown broker Andrew J. Genova has jumped from Carey Winston, where he was a senior vice president, to Trammell Crow Co., where he will be in charge of building the company's brokerage operation.

Like many other development companies battered by the real estate market's collapse, Crow has been trying to recast itself as a full-service real estate company, with full management capabilities. Locally, its leasing operations have been small -- three brokers in the Virginia suburbs and none downtown, said Robert L. Chagares, managing director of the Washington office of Texas-based Crow.

"Drew puts us in the ballgame," Chagares said. "This is the culmination for us of four years of becoming a full service real estate company and not having the patina of developer over our head. This really rounds us out."

Genova, who becomes a principal at Crow, is joined by another Winston broker, Joe Stettinius. Chagares said Crow wants to bring on two to four more brokers immediately, and hopes eventually to have seven to 10 people downtown.

Genova, who has been a broker here for 16 years, will concentrate on building Crow's business on both the tenant and the landlord side.

This move comes at a time when a lot of other brokers are switching jobs, but there doesn't seem to be a trend, said Adam Singer, managing director at Julien J. Studley Inc. Singer follows the subject because, as emcee of an annual real estate brokers' dinner, he does comedy routines about the whys and wherefores of local job changes.

"Outside of Drew, it's not a major movement of senior brokers that might suggest something," he said. "It's just good mid-level people moving around. I don't think it's a pattern."