Preservationists posted a $5,000 bond last week to save a 147-year-old building from demolition-at least temporarily. Judge Paul F. McArdle of D.C. Superior Court granted an injunction barring the D.C. government from issuing a permit to raze the building at 2030 I St.NW. The injunctions will hold until the D.C. Court of Appeals hears the case.
The owner of the building, the Howard P. Foley Company, had asked for a bond of $232,500. The figure was based on the value of the temporary parking spaces the company plans to put on the land after the building is removed, and on premiums to insure the building in its present state. Don't Tear It Down, Inc., a citizens action group which requested the injunction, posted the $5,000 bond with funds from a legal defense bond account set up last year to save another house owned by the Foley Company.
The Foley Company, an electrical firm, owns several 19th century houses on the block, which faces Pennysylvania Avenue. The company, according to its treasurer, John Selinger, wants to tear down the houses to build a modern headquarters building. Don't Tear It Down wants to see the block, known as Red Lion Row, preserved, possibly with a modern building rising behind the 19th century facades.
The Foley Company has been trying to tear down 2030 I St. for almost a year. The company applied for a demolition permit last November, but because the building is listed as a landmark, the matter was referred to the Joint Committee on Landmarks. On the Joint Committee's recommendation, the state historic preservation officer, Lorenzo Jacobs, invoked a 180-day delay in demolition. The delay period expired June 15 and was voluntarily extended for another 30 days.
The Foley Company started wrecking the Federal-style house at 2030 I St. on Aug 20. Wreckers pulled down the rear of the building and then halted the demolition in response to atemporary restraining order obtained by Don't Tear It Down. The court order was obtained on the grounds that no meaningful negotiations had taken place during the delay period. During the 180-day period, the state historic preservation officer is supposed to meet with the owners and other interested parties to consider ways to save the building.
Before the 10-day temporary restraining order had expired, the demolition permit was revoked by the D.C. government because of misstatements in the company's application. The Foley Company applied for a new permit, but before it could be issued, Don't Tear It Down obtained another temporary restraining order.
The second temporary restraining order expired Sept. 27, when a hearing was held to consider Don't Tear It Down's request for a preliminary injunction. The preliminary injunction would preserve the building until a full hearing could be conducted on the merits of the case.
At the Sept. 27 hearing, David Sadoff, an attorney for Don't Tear It Down, argued that"at no time during the delay were alternatives to demolition seriously considered." According to Sandoff, only one meeting was held during the 180-day moratorium-on the 179th day. Sadoff based many of his arguments ona recent ruling in the Dunbar High School case. The Dunbar High School Alumni Association tried to prevent the District from tearing down the old school, which many prominent blacks had attended. Chief Judge Harold H. Greene extended the delay period untill he was satisfied that all alternatives to demolition had received a fair hearing. The building was eventually demolished to make way for an athletic field.
Sadoff asked the judge to grant the injunction on the I Street house until meaningful negotiations could be held."When the building goes, it will be gone forever," said Sadoff.
Michael S. Levy, special assistant corporation counsel for the District, argued that "all the District can do is to get the parties together." He stated that the District had done so, not only on the 179th day but on at least two occasions during the voluntary 30-day extension period.
Avis Black, attorney for the Foley Company, stated that "all proposals have had a fair hearing." She said that, after considering alternatives to demolition, the Foley Company decided it would not be in their economic interest to retain the building.
Mcardle said that "what meaningful means is beyond the court's comprehension. There have been meetings." He denied Don't Tear It Down's motion for a preliminary injunction. He later agreed to grant an injunction until the group could appeal his denial to a higher court. No date has been set for the hearing by the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, the rear of the building, which was pulled down by the wreckers, is a pile of rubble. James M. Cutts, a structural engineer consulted by Don't Tear It Down, said that the rear portion of the building is now unsafe and should be removed. The front half could remain and be restored, Cutts said in a telephone interview. Gene Ransom of Robert G. Scharf & Associates, a construction cost consulting firm, said in a telephone intervieeiw that the front half of the house could be incorporated in a larger office building "very inexpensively."
Don't Tear It Down has also filed a motion against the Foley Company for contempt of court. The group charges that the company's agents continued to demolish the building even after they had been notified that a temporary restraining order and had been issued