The tenants at the Kenesaw Apartments in Mount Pleasant bought their 16th Street building last week, ending a seven-year battle with District officials that included periods of living in a half-finished building with no heat and hot water.
Under a complicated agreement the 32 low-income, black and Hispanic tenants purchased the newly renovated 83-unit building at 3060 16th St. NW. from the city government for $2.8 million.
The tenants have formed a partnership with Washington developers Mike Huke and Milton Irvin of CIH Ventures, Inc., to help sell the empty the 51 empty units in the building as condominiums for prices ranging from $48,000 to $67,000.
When the building is fully occupied, families making less than $20,000 a year will live side by side families making $50,000 and $60,000, a situation that is fairly uncommon in Washington.
"It's fair to the people who have been there for seven years," said Robert Aguiree, president of the tenants association, commenting on the purchase agreement. "It preserves their homes after all the struggle, and the city gets their investment out of it too."
The city and the tenants have been bickering over the current agreement since March, when Huke proposed it as a solution, said Robert Leland, the deputy administrator of the Neighborhood Improvement Administration, the housing department official who handled the negotiations.
The housing department will lend CIH Ventures Inc., $183,000 to spruce up the outside of the building and install trash compactors and dishwashers in the condominiums to make them more attractive to middle-income buyers, Leland said.
The employe-owned Consumers United Insurance Company has agreed to lend mortgage omoney to the condominium buyers at below market rates, Leland said.
Under the purchase agreement the city will receive its money as the condominium units are sold, Leland said.
The low-income tenants will not own their units individually but will form a cooperative. Their mortgage payments will be paid from payments made by the tenants themselves and a federal subsidy.
The tenants' fight to become owners of the Kenesaw started in 1978 two year after fire damaged the third floor of the building.
The building with its bay windows and high ceilings became a symbol of the struggle of low- and moderate-income tenants to remain in Mount Pleasant at a time when the large distinctive homes and apartments in the community were becoming desirable addresses for middle-class professionals.
In 1978 the tenants successfully fought their landlord, Antioch College, when college officials tried to sell the building. At that point, the housing department, through its subsidiary, the D.C. Development Corp., bought the building, promising to renovate it and sell it to the tenants.
DCDC started renovation in 1979 and spent $1 million before halting the construction a year later because of alleged problems with the workmanship. The city did not resume work on the building until 1982, having spent a total of $4.8 million on the project.