The old police station on Volta Place NW is living on borrowed time.
Once the headquarters for the 8th Precinct in Georgetown, the building was vacated two years ago and hasn't been used since. Only a maze of city red tape has kept the station standing this long.
Last week the National Capital Planning Commission approved a plan to sell the land where the station sits, thus removing the final obstacle to razing the building.
City officials said they expect the 87-year-old building to be torn down to make way for town houses. The city will solicit bids for the land later this month. The asking price is about $300,000.
"We've had a lot of people express an interest in obtaining that piece of property," said Sam Starobin, who heads the city's Department of General Services, which oversees all property owned or leased by the city. "We're ready to move ahead rapidly with the sale."
Starobin said any changes on the site must conform with zoning regulations for the area, which allow only low-density residential use. The new owner must either convert the existing facility to a residence or tear it down and build town houses.
"I'd assume the new owner will raze the building and put row houses in there," Starobin said. "It's hard to imagine anyone making any meaningful use of the building as it is without losing an awful lot of money, and there isn't much else you can do with it."
Bill Green, of General Services' real estate office, said 40 to 50 people already have made inquiries about the site. "Some people have actually told me they're interested in rehabilitating or converting the building into a residence," Green said. "But by and large, what a developer will probably do if he gets the property is to build row houses there."
Green said city appraisers have told him that a developer could tear down the old building, put up six or seven town houses and sell them for $250,000 to $275,000 each.
Some Georgetown residents are concerned about what a new owner may do with the site.
"I think everyone really regrets that it hasn't been kept as a precinct, but we're well beyond that point now," said Katherine Sullivan of the Georgetown Citizens Association. "I think it's always desirable to preserve a building as old and beautiful as this one."
One resident, who asked not to be identified, said several homeowners in the immediate area are considering bidding for the land.
"That's the only way we can really control what goes on there," he said. "We'd develop the property ourselves in a way consistent with the rest of the area. It's a quality control move."
The three-story brick building was used at the turn of the century as a residential station house for police officers and their horses. In its heyday, it had more than 125 policemen working out of it. In recent years, the station has been phased out, despite the protests of some local residents and the Georgetown Citizens Association.
When the police department opened its new district headquarters near Idaho and Wisconsin avenues in 1974, the station was left to be manned by only two officers.
The last spark of life came to the station two years ago when its spacious second floor was repainted and paneled for use as a headquarters for police officers working elsewhere on a successful "Sting" operation.
Since then, the building has been vacant. The windows are boarded up, and its whitewashed exterior has slowly worn away, exposing crumbling brick.
City officials have wanted to sell the site for some time, but the plan required the approval of several groups, including the City Council. Since the property is in the Georgetown historic district, the city's Joint Committee on Landmarks also had to approve the sale.
The final hurdle was cleared last week when the National Capital Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of selling the tract.
In recommending that the property be sold, commission Executive Director Charles H. Conrad said, "It appears that requirements for future review are adequate to conclude that approval at this time . . . will not adversely affect the quality and character of the historic district." Any construction on the property is subject to review by the city's Office of State Historic Preservation and the Fine Arts Commission.
Starobin said his office will put notice of the sale in the D.C. Register sometime later this month. Sealed bids will be accepted for 30 days, the bids will be opened and the property awarded to othe highest bidder. City officials hope to get about $300,000 for the site, which cost the city $9,750 when it was purchased in the 1890s.