Many tenants would be happy if their landlord installed a new kitchen, new wiring, and new heating equipment in their apartment. But the tenant association at the Dorchester House in Adams Morgan says their landlord can keep the upgrades.
When the association learned in July that the 395-unit apartment building would soon undergo major construction, it went looking for a lawyer. “The scope of the work is so disruptive, how can it improve the lives of anyone here?” says Eleanor Johnson, the tenant association president.
During the first phase of the planned construction, builders will install a new roof and fire-suppression system, plus new wiring and heat pumps in each apartment. That work alone will cost about $10 million and take a year, says John Hoskinson, one of the building’s owners. When that work is finished, builders will renovate the common areas on the lobby and lower levels and install new kitchens in every unit.
Johnson worries the noise and the environmental impact of the work could drive tenants out. “We don’t want to have a boondoggle here,” she says, adding that what bothers her most is how the owners waited until July to inform tenants of the upcoming construction, which is set to begin this fall.
Johnson says the short notice failed to give the association time to explore the plans and find out how the work will impact residents. She also does not think the work is necessary. “We see the building as viable the way it is,” she says.
So far, Johnson says, the association has not found a lawyer and she is unsure what its next step will be.
For his part, Hoskinson says he would not be surprised if the tenant association tries to block the construction, although he doubts it will have much luck. The building is old, he says, and major improvements are needed. Hoskinson said he will not seek to raise rents.
Hoskinson called the tenant association leadership “oddballs” and said they do not represent the feelings of most residents. “The tenant association opposes everything we do,” he says. “If we did not make improvements to the building, they would be complaining about the sad conditions that they are forced to live in. But when we make improvements, they complain about the process.”