New York Ave. Houses Await Demolition

Seven months after D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams climbed aboard a tractor and helped demolish a boarded-up row house on New York Avenue NE, promising that an entire block of the unsightly structures would be torn down within weeks, the buildings are still standing.

"Much to the city's disappointment, the project is stalled," said Leo Clark, a project manager with the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development.

At a widely publicized event in May, Williams (D) announced plans to demolish a block of crumbling row houses between North Capitol and First streets NE by June 30 as part of a campaign to clean up a primary gateway to the nation's capital.

The demolition was to be financed by a $450,000 low-interest city loan to the property owners, and the city had planned to spend an extra $50,000 to create a landscaped park until the developers start construction on commercial buildings there.

But Dominic F. Antonelli, the parking garage mogul who owns much of the property, said he and fellow developer John G. Webster have been unable to purchase all the houses. Of the 19 that remain, five are still occupied.

"We're still working on it, but when people don't want to sell, there's not much I can do. I've done everything I can do as a private person, which is to offer money," he said. "If the mayor wants this to happen, he'll have to condemn it for cleanup or take other action. It's simply a matter of what he wants to do. He did say he would clean it up, but now he's got to follow through."

The mayor's office did not respond to a request for a statement. Clark declined to comment on whether the houses could be condemned, but he noted that condemnation generally is used only for public projects.

The city money set aside for the demolition, Clark said, "is reserved, but it cannot be held indefinitely."

-- Philip P. Pan

Teens Seek Outlet for Computer Game

The dizzying pace of mergers and consolidations within the computer game industry has forestalled visions of big-money contracts for a group of Fairfax County teenagers who wowed the industry earlier this year with a game they developed.

"Right now, things are still in flux. We've gotten a lot of interest, but we've also run into some problems," said David Scherer, 19, who created "Fire and Darkness," a 3-D computer game, along with six other former students from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

This spring, the game won the $10,000 grand prize at a national computer game industry conference and caught the attention of several major game publishers.

The students developed the game over about three years, working on it between studying, jobs and other extracurricular activities. They hoped to sign a substantial contract to publish their game for retail distribution but discovered the fast-changing corporate landscape posed some roadblocks.

"A lot of the companies were interested but found we'd be developing a product that would be in direct competition with some game being developed by some company they'd just bought," Scherer said.

So, the group decided to explore online game opportunities. They're talking with several other game developers about starting an online gaming enterprise in which Fire and Darkness and other games they create could be played.

"We've always felt that online gaming was going to be the next big thing," said Scherer, who has taken the semester off from his studies at Carnegie Mellon University to work on the project full time.

The young men, the last two of whom graduated from Jefferson in the spring, are refining the game while pursuing business opportunities.

Scherer said a couple aren't interested in pursuing the enterprise full time while they focus on college, so he's looking for game enthusiasts who would want to work with him full time.

Information about the game and the group can be found at www.singularity-software.com.

-- Victoria Benning