A Year After Fire, Auto Shop Still Vacant
Published: Friday, March 23, 2012
Updated: Friday, March 23, 2012 03:03
The site of the former Georgetown Auto Service and Washingtonian convenience store near the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Q Street remains vacant more than a year after a fire forced it to close.
According to Helder Gil, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the development of the property at 1576 Wisconsin Ave. has been delayed because the landlord has not produced the necessary plans to obtain a construction permit.
A fire caused by fuel vapors forced the building to close on March 15, 2011. Three employees were injured, though none of the victims required transport for medical care. The fire also spread to the kitchen of nearby Los Cuates, forcing the restaurant to close temporarily.
Georgetown Auto Service owner Bobby Gonzalez, who rented the property, said that he had hoped to reopen the store by fall 2011 but the reopening has been postponed indefinitely.
“As far as I know, [the landlord] is trying to rebuild as soon as [he] can and put it back together, but nobody knows the timeline,” Gonzalez said. While waiting to reopen his business in Georgetown, Gonzalez works from Alexandria, Va.
According to Gil, the owner had submitted a permit application for renovations in September. The application was not approved because it required additional plans and drawings from an architect or engineer. Gil said the DCRA needs the more detailed plans from the landlord because they do not want renovations to weaken the structural integrity of the building during construction. D.C. regulations mandate that all renovation permits be filed by the property owner unless he authorizes his tenant to apply for the permits.
“We told him that he has to come back with more comprehensive building plans and drawings, and we are still waiting for them to come back,” Gil said.
He added that it was unusual for the permit process to take this long.
“It’s a fairly simple process, but you need to come in with actual plans and engage the service of a licensed architect or engineer to design those plans,” Gil said.
Though Gil could not comment on what might happen if the property owner does not submit revised renovation plans, he said that the owner has already been fined $2,000 for failing to register his property as vacant. Additionally, the owner must pay a tax rate that is five times higher than the rate charged for occupied properties.
The owner of the property did not respond to requests for comment.