The burnt-out Deauville
The burnt-out Deauville

Newer residents of Mount Pleasant know the two-dimensional facade of the burnt-out Deauville Apartments at 3145 Mount Pleasant St. NW only as a neighborhood landmark, a slightly eerie but defining element of the streetscape. But longtime Mount Pleasanters remember when it used to house actual people, 200 of them. Soon it’ll return to productive use and the third dimension: The 3145 Mount Pleasant Street Tenants Association just received a building permit to restore the building to the function it filled before the five-alarm fire that wiped out the Deauville in 2008.

The process has been years in the making. In 2010, the D.C. Council approved a $4.137 million, 43-year loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the tenant association to buy the property and convert it into a 67-unit apartment building, which the returning tenants decided to rename it the Monsignor Oscar Romero Apartments, after the Salvadoran human rights leader.

So what’s been the holdup? According to tenant association president (and local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner) Yasmin Romero-Castillo, the process has been delayed by the tenants’ efforts to secure financing from the city, which has been slowed by the many other projects the city is undertaking. The tenant association is working with the nonprofit National Housing Trust to restore the building, given the tenants’ tight finances. “The tenant association, we don’t have any money,” Romero-Castillo says.

Things could start moving quickly now. “We hope to close on all the financing this week, and that renovating the building would start within 30 days of then,” says Rob Richardson of the National Housing Trust. “And it will take about 15 months to complete the building.”

Romero-Castillo says some former Deauville residents have returned to their home countries of Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras, but she thinks all those who remain in D.C. plan to return to the Monsignor Oscar Romero Apartments. The new apartments will be offered to these returning residents at affordable rents tied to the residents’ incomes.

“Why do you take affordable rent?” Romero-Castillo asks rhetorically. “Because we have some people without legal papers, and people without legal papers, you can’t apply for any loan.”

Richardson says to expect a groundbreaking ceremony in the next two to three weeks.

Photo by Lydia DePillis