The city plans to spend over $2 million on a vacant lot in Shaw to move forward on rehabbing the historic Howard Theater.

The parcel, behind the theater at 1830 Wiltberger Place NW, is assessed at about $1.25 million. Under the contract submitted for council approval, the city proposes paying $2,012,500 for the lot. That’s a premium of 60 percent.

The land is needed, according to city documents, to construct “back-of-the-house facilities” and loading areas for the theater, to which the city has committed up to $15 million in grants and tax breaks. Now anyone with a modicum of real-estate knowledge knows that assessed valuations are always well underneath market values, but a 60 percent premium is noteworthy—-especially in the current real-estate market.

The lot’s owner, Himat A. Gulajan of Centreville, was not available for comment; a person answering his phone said he’s out of town until Monday.

Sean Madigan, a spokesperson for Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Neil Albert, says the price is tied to an appraisal that puts the value of the land at $1.75 million. As for the 14 percent extra the city is paying, Madigan says it “isn’t uncommon to pay a premium in circumstances like this,” where a parcel is needed for a larger project.

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