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Why has the property on the southeast corner of 14th and G streets NW been vacant for so many years?
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Litigation. The building opened in 1926 as the Federal-American National Bank, and in 1933 it became the Hamilton National Bank, which was absorbed by the National Bank of Washington in 1954. In 1990, the National Bank of Washington was declared insolvent and sold to Riggs National Bank, which chose not to use the building. In 2000, according to city records, the 619 14th Street Limited Partnership sold the property to Armenian Assembly of America Inc., which officially transferred the deed to Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial Inc. in 2003 to set up a museum on the genocide of Armenians at the end of the Ottoman Empire. But then the litigation began, arising from disputes among donors. By 2010, the museum company owed nearly a million dollars in back taxes, including hefty vacant property taxes. The main lawsuit was settled in February 2011, but that didn’t resolve matters. According to the Downtown Business Improvement District, the site is tangled in other lawsuits involving back pay and alleged embezzlement.
So what’s the status of the property now? “That’s tough to answer,” says the man who picks up the phone when I call the listed number for Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial Inc. “It’s tied up in litigation, which means I’ll have to refer you to an attorney.”