D.C. Officials Order Brand-New Condo Building Torn Down, Citing Dangers to Water System | NBC4 Washington

D.C. Officials Order Brand-New Condo Building Torn Down, Citing Dangers to Water System

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    A brand new multi-unit condominium building in northeast Washington is being torn down against the owner's will because it sits on top of an old sewer and water tunnel and coulld cause damage to the undeground system. News 4's Mark Segraves looks at the legal battle and talks to residents who are wondering how this happened in the first place. (Published Monday, May 4, 2015)

    A brand new multi-unit condo building in the District is being torn down against the developer's will -- and D.C. residents may end up having to pay for it.

    The building, located at 1744 D Street NE, is a new building that towers over the surrounding homes. But it's not the size of the building that's the problem. It's what's underneath.

    The developer, Edge Investments, says they had all the proper permits from the city to construct the building, but D.C. Water says the building is in danger of causing catastrophic damage to the aging water tunnel that runs directly beneath the new condos.

    City officials agreed and ordered the building to be torn down.

    "It's a little surprising that they would be issued permits in the first place in order to build something on such a main focal point for the water supply," said neighbor Christopher White.

    Demolition crews hired by D.C. Water are hard at work, gutting the multimillion dollar building. They plan to have it completely demolished in just a few weeks.

    Neighbors have been wondering how this could happen.

    "It's a complete waste of money, and it's a complete waste of time," neighbor Daniel Johnson said. "It's a complete waste of labor. It's senseless; it really is."

    Edge Investments has filed suit in D.C. Superior Court to get the demolition stopped.

    In court documents, Edge says they had all the proper permits and that D.C. Water knew of their plans to build there -- and never opposed the permits until after the building was nearly complete.

    The developer also said that it submitted engineering reports showing the building didn't present any danger to the sewer or to public health and safety.

    But D.C. Water says it discovered damage to the northeast boundary sewer caused by improper construction of the building.

    D.C. Water said in a statement in part: "Internal repairs to the sewer were completed in April, but the risk of further damage remains, which could lead to significant flooding in the neighborhood. Now, DC Water is beginning the demolition of the structure to prevent any further damage to the sewer and protect the health and safety of the community."

    Long before the issue with the sewer was brought up, neighbors raised concerns about the project and asked city officials if the developer had proper permits in the first place.

    "We raised the issue of illegal construction because the building was humongous," said Neighborhood Commissioner Sondra Phillips-Gilbert.

    But the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission couldn't get a straight answer from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) as to whether permits were ever issued.

    It turns out they were. In written statement, the DCRA said it did issue the building permits, but insist the developer filed a false application.

    The statement from the DCRA said in part:

    "The building has been, impermissibly, constructed on top of a sewer main. The permit application contained misrepresentations, and the constructed building did not match the plans. To ensure that the sewer main is not compromised, the structure will be demolished."

    "It's stupid... But now that I find out why, it makes complete sense," Johnson said. "But why didn't they know anything about it before they allowed the guy to build it?"

    "Someone should have known what was going on below," Phillips-Gilbert said.

    The building is full of brand-new doors, windows and other building materials which were seen being thrown out, with no apparent effort to salvage or recycle anything.

    "The sad thing is that the owner has spent a large amount of money," Phillips-Gilbert said.

    As for who will end up paying for the demolition and what will the investors be left with, that will all have to play out in the courts. However, if it turns out the District issued permits in error, it could all come to local taxpayers or D.C. Water customers to pick up the tab.

    "It's probably better than popping a water main and causing a lot of flooding," said neighbor Christopher White.

    "I watched it go up, and now I'm gonna watch it come down," Johnson said.