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When the Department of Housing and Community Development bought four properties on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE last July, known as the “Big K” sites, they were in terrible shape—-it seemed almost impossible, even in the Anacostia Historic District, that they could be saved. After a thorough checkup, it appears that’s true for the northernmost of the graceful old houses, which the District will ask permission to demolish.
The proposed destruction, though, is all in the interest of revitalizing the strip, just a few blocks north of DHCD’s headquarters. Last night, an advisory group presented their preferred option for the sites: A food-focused retail niche in the four houses, and small business office space in the former liquor store on the corner. The plan is to put out a solicitation for offers from interested developers for all four addresses in November.
That aspirational plan might be enough to persuade the Historic Preservation Review Board, which had earlier rejected the former owners’ requests to raze the buildings, that the imagined replacement is special enough to merit their lenience. According to the District’s structural engineer, that’s the property’s only hope for redevelopment, but it’s also sad proof of how historic buildings can be lost forever through neglect.