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Construction Controversies: What's in a Name? Real Estate Pop-Ups Defined

Curbed DC


If you aren't hunting for a condo — or you don't live on a historic D.C. townhouse block — you'd be forgiven for thinking a pop-up is a limited-time restaurant residency by a big-name chef or a temporary boutique from a local dress designer/soap maker/dog sweater knitter. But in local real estate-ese, it's construction or development that adds a story — or more — to the top of existing rowhouses, usually as developers turn single-family units into condo conversions.

The architectural results vary, from one-story additions that are barely noticeable to V Street's infamous middle finger. In many neighborhoods — Shaw, H Street NE and Adams Morgan pocket hood Lanier Heights, in particular — the might-be giants are inviting challenges to existing zoning restrictions and sometimes bitter yard sign wars, as reported by Washington City Paper last month. The anti-poppers claim adding height to buildings mucks up the skylines of the harmonious, Brooklyn-esque blocks, blocking light and creating eyesores. Pro-pop up forces — including some homeowners and many developers — say they increase housing density, add more affordable units to pricey 'hoods and increase property values.

So what's the price tag like on all this? Take a recent townhouse-to-condo pop-up at 1696 Lanier Place NW, then a 4-bed, 2.25-bath fixer in Lanier Heights sold for $755,000 in late 2011; after a sleek conversion that added a story and bumped the entire building back, it's four condo units have sold in the $500-$700K range — cheaper than buying a house in the area, but not a bargain.

Still, in many so-called rowhouse neighborhoods, proposed zoning changes are in the works, so, come 2020, pop-ups may seem as out of fashion as say, Brutalist architecture. —Jenn Barger
· Uppers and downers [WCP]
· Office of Planning to pop-ups: Not so high, please [CurbedDC]
· Pop goes the rowhouse; A photo tour of 16 bonkers pop-ups [CurbedDC]
· Two Eckington examples of pop-ups gone horribly wrong [CurbedDC]

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