The V Street pop-up under construction in spring 2013
The V Street pop-up under construction in spring 2013

In 2013, a three-story addition arose from the top of a rowhouse on a low-slung block of V Street NW, appearing to give the surrounding community the middle finger. Now, the community is giving it the middle finger back.

That November, I wrote a post with the headline, “Pop-Ups May Not Be Popular, But They Sure Are Profitable.” The V Street building, which had just gone on the market, sparked a citywide debate on residential pop-ups and may have contributed to a pending zoning change that would prohibit pop-ups like these in some rowhouse neighborhoods, if not on V Street itself. The development, in typical swagger-jacking fashion, was marketed as The Ella, as in Fitzgerald. Led by an $850,900 price tag for the top two floors, the three units of the building were going for a total of more than $2 million. Not bad for a building that was purchased in 2011 for just $386,000.

But 16 months later, it’s not looking quite so profitable.

The ground-floor unit sold last August for $375,000, after the building was rebranded as The Ava. The other two units are still on the market. And their prices keep dropping.

The top unit was relisted last April at $839,900, then reduced to $799,000 the following month, according to real-estate records. It still hasn’t sold. The middle unit, occupying floors two and three, was initially listed at $799,900. The price dropped to $769,900 when the building became The Ava, then fell to $749,000 in May 2014 and $699,000 in July. (The Washington Post wrote about the struggle to sell the units in January.) Finally, last week, the price dropped to $649,000—a 20 percent reduction from the original price. There’s still no buyer.

The identity of the seller is also less than clear. The building’s deed records indicate ownership by an LLC whose address is listed alternately in Leesburg and Herndon, Va. Whoever the owners are, they’re not making the kind of profit that might have seemed likely at the start. And they’re probably not getting much sympathy from the building’s more diminutive, and now more shaded, neighbors.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery