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Condos replace loathed carry-out in Hill East

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Local,Michael Neibauer

A former Hill East carry-out joint known to be magnet for drugs and violence has been reborn, to some neighborhood dismay, as a condominium and retail complex at the corner of 15th and C streets Southeast not far from RFK Stadium.

Carry Lofts at 257 15th St. SE, with its four two-bedroom units, ground floor retail space and sidewalk patio, is a striking substitute for the New Dragon, which closed in late 2005 amid neighbors' protests and a lawsuit.

But the new property has its critics, those who believe the rowhouse-lined neighborhood is growing oversaturated with condominiums. The D.C. Preservation League added Hill East to its most endangered list in 2007, noting it is "at risk for tear downs and ill-advised alteration."

"Those who might not be so happy with the situation should remember what we had before," said Larry Kaufer, who lives doors away from Carry Lofts.

The New Dragon across from Payne Elementary School offered no seating, but it did shield its workers behind bulletproof glass. It was a regular hangout for drug dealers and car thieves, a popular loitering spot and the site of numerous fights and shootings.

The criminals dispersed with the carryout's closure, residents say. But neighbors are not unanimously celebrating its replacement -- yet another condo building, one of three relatively new towers on the same block.

"You've created on this one block, condo alley," said Neil Glick, Hill East advisory neighborhood commissioner. "You've totally destroyed the character of a residential street of houses. I don't think it's progress at all."

Jim Myers, longtime Hill East activist, dubbed the redeveloped block "Condo Canyon."

"To understand why some neighbors are irate, you must realize that they endured decades of violence outside the New Dragon and environs, and gained a few moment's peace that was quickly replaced with the sound of heavy machinery tearing down buildings," Myers wrote on the neighborhood listserve. "And then the new buildings went up and up until the sun and sky were not to be seen again."

But Chad Anthony, a partner in Carry Lofts developer Urban Revision and a Hill East resident, said his building fits into his vision of a "walkable, livable community." He hopes to lease 1,600 square feet on the first floor to a cafe.

"Hopefully it can turn into something of a gathering spot for the neighbors," Anthony said, "something that's an amenity as opposed to a detraction like the New Dragon was."

mneibauer@washingtonexaminer.com

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