Theodore and Edith Roosevelt once walked on the wooden floors, leaned against the fireplace mantle and out the marble window sills of 1215 19th St. NW, and if developer Richard W. Naing has his way, tenants soon will be able to do so as well.
"We believe in restoring, not renovating, not rebuilding," said Naing, president of Naing International Enterprises Ltd., last week.
Naing and his partner, Mark Griffin, have contracted to purchase the Roosevelt home and another historic building in the District, which they plan to restore and then sell or rent to businesses.
The 19th Street house, built in 1885, was the home of the Roosevelt family from 1892 to 1895 when TR was Civil Service commissioner and writing his multivolume Winning of the West. It has been used as a lawyers office since 1960.
The other property is the former Parkmont School on the corner of Wisconsin Ave. and 33rd St. NW. Built in 1911 by the Corporation of Georgetown, the school was used for vocational training and administrative offices until the private Parkmont School bought it in 1977 for $575,000.
Naing would not disclose how much he has agreed to pay for the two buildings, which were on the market separately. But Donald J. Melvin, attorney for the Parkmont School, said that the building is being sold to Naing for less than the asking price of $950,000.
"Such a beautiful building, such a rotten real estate market for beautiful buildings," he said.
Naing estimates that it will cost $1 million to restore the Roosevelt home and build a 7,500-square-foot addition along its south side, and that it will cost $70,000 to restore the exterior of the Parkmont building. He said he has not yet estimated the cost of interior work on the school.
"Whenever you start talking craftsmen, wood workers and masons, then you start talking expensive," he said.
Naing has been restoring and selling properties in the District area for 10 years, and he is one of a handful of real estate agents who deal in restored buildings and homes.
Recently, Naing's company restored buildings at 101 and 103 2nd St. NE and created the Capitol Court Condominiums. The company spent $700,000 to buy and restore the two 12-unit buildings, which they sold for more than $1 million. Another Naing project, the 15-unit Belmont Park Condominiums, cost his company $700,000 and sold for $1.5 million.
Naing also has restored and sold dozens of town houses, many of them in Foggy Bottom.
"There is a market for restored properties," said Naing. "I'm not talking renovated, where the inside is gutted and then built up anew, but restored to the original looks and atmosphere. The buildings have that 'old' feeling to them."
Naing hopes to have both the Roosevelt home and the Parkmont School designated as historic in order to receive a 25 percent federal tax credit on what he spends for restoration.
Even without the tax credit, he said the buildings are worth restoring.
"In Chicago or New York, you would probably need that credit to make restoration worthwhile," he said. "But here in Washington, people are willing to pay for restoration. They want to keep the ambiance of the neighborhood."
Naing said he will restore the Parkmont building to suit a potential tenant or buyer, although he has not yet found one. He said he hopes to rent or sell the restored school building to an historic organization.
"Many associations are reluctant to move from the downtown area," he said. "An historic group might be interested in settling in Georgetown."
He said he has several potential tenants, most of them law firms, interested in the Roosevelt home.
"The space in the home is not efficient," he said. Odd angles and alcoves abound in the 4,500-square-foot house, designed by architect Robert I. Fleming for a naval officer.
"But people seem to be willing to be a little inconvienced in exchange for charm," he said.