The District of Columbia government yesterday auctioned off three parcels of surplus land for a total of $1.7 million after failing last week to attract qualified bidders for two of its most valued properties in Georgetown.
During an hour of spirited bidding, the city sold a parking lot near 13th and N streets NW to the Electrical Workers Benefit Association for $1,015,000; the old Engine Company No. 5 property at 3212 M St. NW in Georgetown to developer William Robinowitz for $680,000, and a lot at 1529 Church St. NW to a group of investors for $80,000.
Last week, prospective buyers apparently were discouraged from bidding on the old Georgetown Incinerator, 31st and Water streets NW, and the old Corcoran School, 2715 M St. NW, because of high interest costs, a slump in the local real estate market and, most important, zoning restrictions and resistance from Georgetown historical preservation groups that want to limit development on those sites.
City officials had hoped to raise at least $6 million from the sale of those two properties. The sale was to be part of a program of disposing of surplus land to raise revenues to help balance the city's fiscal 1981 operating budget. The fiscal year ends Wednesday.
The three properties that were placed on the auction block yesterday presented few, if any, zoning problems, according to city officials and several of the businessmen who bid on them. The parking lot at 13th and N streets could be used as a site for offices or apartments, or -- with approval of the Board of Zoning Adjustment -- for a hotel. The old firehouse site could be used for commercial or residential development. And the lot on Church Street could be used for residential construction, although the purchasers say they will continue to operate it as a parking lot.
"The key is that the properties we sold today had vigorous buyers," said Jean Oliver, director of the city's surplus property office. "We almost doubled our (minimum asking) prices today."
Michael Nugent, director of financial operations for the Electrical Workers Benefit Association, a fraternal death benefits society, declined to disclose plans for the newly acquired property.
Nugent's insurance society, which was founded by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), has developed a commercial office building in downtown Washington at 1125 15th St. NW.
Nugent and Robinowitz competed for the property, with Nugent making an initital bid of $710,000. When the price soared to $1.15 million, Robinowitz threw up his hands and said: "Well, I guess I'm going to give it to him. He can have it."
Robinowitz was far more stubborn, however, in competing against seven other potential purchasers of the old engine company property. After an opening bid of $340,000, the participants bid up the price 41 times before Robinowitz's most tenacious competitor, Olga Mazza, of 2233 Wisconsin Ave., dropped out at $680,000.
William B. Ingersoll, a lawyer representing a group of Washington investors, was the only bidder on the Church Street property. Ingersoll's group owns four other properties near the site, including office buildings at 1521, 1523 and 1525 16th St. NW.
"Frankly, it (the $80,000 price) is not a steal," Ingersoll said. "I would have been surprised if anyone else would have bid on it. It's more valuable to us than anyone else."