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A few months ago, we learned that the Department of Housing and Community Development had bought up the decaying houses along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE known as the “Big K” properties, after their long-time owners, Ann and Lenard Kushner. The pair had been trying to raze the buildings, but since they fall within the bounds of the Anacostia Historic District, their requests were repeatedly denied. DHCD plans to eventually issue a request for proposals for redevelopment of the houses, and held a meeting on Wednesday to hear what the community would like to see there, which dissolved into chaos.
Community members weren’t the only ones to react in consternation. Ward 8 Councilmember and Mayor for Life Marion Barry was outraged that he hadn’t been apprised of the purchase, and fired off a scathing letter asking what DHCD planned to do with it. (He also got the ex-owner’s name wrong, oh and the sale price, but we’ll let these go).
TO: Leila Edmonds, Director
D.C. Department of Housing & Community Development
FROM: Marion Barry
SUBJECT: Big K Liquor Site
As you know I expressed dismay and disbelief when I learned after the fact that DHCD had purchased Big K Liquor and the three houses (two of which are historic) for $900,000. Mr. Katz has been trying to sell this property for the last two or three years. He has been turned down at least twice by the Historic Preservation Board from tearing down or removing these two historic sites. Therefore the site has limited use. When I asked you why the Department made that purchase you indicated that it was an eye sore, which I thought was ridiculous. I doubt if you even know what the zoning is on this site. Then when I asked what you proposed to do with the site, you said that you didn’t know which is more ridiculous.
It is unprecedented that the government would buy a liquor store because it’s an eye sore rather than getting DCRA to clean it up. It is my understanding that you are meeting this evening, November 10th with several community organizations. Before the meeting I want you to put in writing to me what you propose to do with the site or if you don’t have a proposal it is to listen to get ideas from them since you seem not to have any.
Cc: Mayor Adrian Fenty
Neil Albert, City Administrator
Valerie Santos, Deputy Mayor of Economic Development And Planning
Chairman Vincent Gray
Councilmember Michael Brown
Anacostia Coordinating Council
Far SE Family Strengthening Collaborative
Chicago/Shannon Block Club
Frederick Douglass Community Improvement Council
Fairlawn Citizens Association
And Now, Anacostia
Anacostia Homeowners & Residents Association
Eat Shop Live Anacostia
Anacostia Historic District Design Review Committee
Ward 8 Business Council
Anacostia Economic Development Corporation