The Wyoming apartment building, saved from destruction at the hands of the neighboring Washington Hilton hotel by an outcry over the potential loss of rental housing, has been converted to condominiums.
The structure, home to generations of renters in the multihued Adams-Morgan section of the District, was championed by neighborhood activists during the hotel controversy three years ago. They marched and carried signs reading "Defenseless Tenants Prey to Hotel Sprawl" and "Homes Not Hotels." The Hilton wanted to demolish the building and two others nearby to make room for a convention center.
Mayor Marion Barry turned out to address the protesters, telling them, "We're together on this one." And even though, a few months later, Barry reversed his position, the city zoning commission sided with the neighborhood and prevented the hotel's expansion.
Soon after the decision to preserve the buildings had been made, however, tenants and the development firm of Segerman, Katz and Polinger began discussing ways to convert the Wyoming to condominiums.
The developers bought the building last year after nearly two years of negotiating with the tenants and John L. Barr, owner of the Wyoming. The price was $6.3 million.
Henry W. Cord, former president of the Wyoming tenants' association and now the appointed resident owner director on the condominium board, said the tenants were a well-organized group who worked to ensure that the residents' interests would be protected in the conversion. Now, he said, "Our elderly have been protected, and we got a commitment on the amount of renovation work" to be done. He added that the developers were "very fair" in giving 25 to 30 percent discounts on apartment purchase prices to tenants and relocation allowances to residents who wanted to move.
The Wyoming, built in 1905, has been restored to much of its former glory, most of its 105 apartments modernized, and its facade protected as a landmark by the National Historic Preservation Trust.
The gardens, marble lobbies and oak floors have been preserved, according to the developer's president, Bernard Segerman. Ceilings are nine feet high and apartments are large--larger, in fact, than many single-family houses now being built--ranging in size from 2,300 square feet to sprawling units of 3,500 square feet.
Purchase prices range from $73,000 to $300,000. About two-thirds of the apartments already have been purchased.
One-third of the former renters bought their units, at a discount from the price offered the public. The elderly residents of about 25 apartments have remained as tenants in their units, which were purchased by groups of investors, Segerman said. District of Columbia law guarantees tenancy in converted buildings to residents over 62 and with annual incomes of $30,0000 or less.
The hotel's attempt to destroy the Wyoming, at 2022 Columbia Road NW, also threatened two other Barr holdings, the Schuyler Arms at 1954 Columbia Road and the Oakland at 2006.
The Oakland still is a rental building, and John L. Barr said that he and his sister, who now own it, have no plans to sell. Barr said there is no debt outstanding on the Oakland, and added that, because of rent-control legislation, this is the "only way to get a nice income from a building."
The Schuyler Arms was converted to condominiums last year by the tenants and developers Hoskinson and Davis Inc., acting together.
Mary Youry, now a Schuyler Arms homeowner and a leader of the drive to prevent destruction of the buildings, said that "all things being equal . . . it would be better if nothing had ever developed and the rental property in the three buildings had been retained."
"Condominium developers have a right to make their livings, you know. It's far better that [conversion] is happening as opposed to hotels wiping out those buildings."