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City advances plans to demolish another building on the D.C. General campus

The move comes as homeless families are still living at the shelter

The Washington Post/Getty Images
The Washington Post/Getty Images

Earlier this month, the District submitted papers to knock down another building on the campus of the largest family homeless shelter in the city, D.C. General, with hundreds of people still living at the shelter.

On Aug. 14, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), which processes demolition permits, published a notice of recently filed raze applications that showed one for Building 29 on the D.C. General campus. The building was constructed in 1992 and has been vacant since 2011, according to a recent environmental assessment of the campus performed by a city contractor. Parts of it were “reportedly used as the DC Correctional Training Facility and...for medical purposes.”

A spokesman for DCRA confirms that the agency received the raze application, but says it has not yet issued a demolition permit. In August, the District started to tear down another vacant building on the D.C. General campus, Building 9, but paused exterior demolition on that building after inspectors found significant amounts of lead in the soil near the building.

Building 29 on the D.C. General campus
D.C. government/Hillis-Carnes Engineering Associates

Mayor Muriel Bowser seeks to close D.C. General this fall as part of the plan to replace the long-neglected shelter with several new, smaller facilities across the city. As of Aug. 3, 127 families were staying at D.C. General, meaning that the shelter was less than half occupied.

Officials stopped placing families there in May and have begun relocating families from D.C. General to other accommodations like subsidized private units and apartment-style shelter.

Last week, the Department of Human Services reported that 71 of the remaining families at D.C. General had “clear exit paths” from the shelter such as scheduled lease-ups. The other 56 families had not yet identified alternative housing.

Also last week, a majority of the D.C. Council called for Bowser to halt all demolition on the D.C. General campus until the remaining families could be safely moved off the site. They wrote to her in a joint letter that they did “not understand the urgency to demolish these buildings” while families were still living there and potentially exposed to health hazards.

Advocates for the homeless have pressed Bowser to delay demolition in the past several weeks, citing concerns about the welfare of families living at D.C. General. Administration officials respond that it is now safe to move ahead with the deconstruction of the campus.

A spokesman for Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, who chairs the Council’s human services committee, says her office expects to receive more information from city officials about the demolition and abatement work on Friday.