SOME expanded east three years ago, opening the seven-story, $90 million Conway Center at 4430 Benning Road in Northeast. The building has 30 units of affordable housing for families, 152 units for single adults, a job training program and a health center.
In the latest of at least three suits in recent months related to the Conway Center, three SOME affiliates sued the District in D.C. Superior Court on May 25. They claimed the city wrongly billed them for more than $800,000 in property and other taxes.
The affiliates — two of which exist to hold title to different parts of the Conway Center — argued they should be exempt from the taxes because SOME is a nonprofit.
“Even now the District of Columbia government does not dispute that the properties were at all times put to a good public charity use,” the lawsuit said.
The D.C. attorney general’s office, which represents the District in tax litigation, declined to comment, as did the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue.
In a statement, Robert Neil Driscoll, an attorney who represents the affiliates that filed the suit, said the organization sued to preserve its right to appeal the denial of tax exempt status.
“Given that there is no dispute as to the good work SOME does at the Conway Center, we presume there’s a solution short of litigation that will allow the District to appropriately recognize the tax exempt status of the property, but we had to file when we did to protect SOME,” Driscoll wrote in an email.
In another suit in February, SOME sued Hanover, its insurance company, seeking $30 million while claiming the company declined to pay for repairs when “serious impairment” was found in the Conway Center’s parking garage, forcing it to close.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, indicated cracks in the garage’s concrete slabs were found in 2018, months after the center opened. After the garage’s designers said conditions were unsafe, a structural engineer found the garage “had not been designed to withstand the Code-required or the actual loads” it was carrying and was “overstressed,” according to the suit.
When SOME reported the problems to Hanover, the insurance company refused to pay for emergency repairs, according to the suit, saying the cracks could be a design issue not covered by the policy.
In a statement, Hanover attorney Mark C. Nanavati said SOME did not purchase coverage for design defects.
“While Hanover Insurance appreciates the mission of Some, Inc … [it] believes its position is well founded,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, a Maryland company hired to address the Conway Center’s structural problems said it is owed $1.5 million for services it provided.
In a suit filed in D.C. Superior Court in October against SOME affiliate Benning Programs — one of the entities that owns part of the Conway Center — Structural Preservation Systems said it was hired by a subcontractor “to address a life-safety issue, without which the structural integrity of the entire building would be at risk.”
Structural has not been paid for the work, according to the suit.
“Until a design fix is implemented to restore the structural integrity of the building, Structural has been required to continue to incur additional costs,” the suit said.
In a court filing denying that it owed money to Structural, Benning Programs said the Conway Center parking garage’s “property damage arose from the combined impact of deficient design and structural load, which put the building at risk of collapse.”
SOME officials didn’t respond to requests for comment about the suits.