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Monday July 15, 2024

Status of Pakistan-owned historic building in Washington downgraded

Building's property classification was downgraded for its deteriorated condition

By Wajid Ali Syed
May 05, 2023

WASHINGTON: The government of the District of Columbia has downgraded the property classification of a Pakistan embassy-owned historic building, which has been up for sale for the past few months, inevitably increasing taxes on its assessed value as well.

According to official documents available with The News, the local authorities have changed the class status of an old, and now crumbling building owned by the Pakistani government. The famous R Street building, that used to be a chancery in the past, was put up for auction late last year.

The complete bidding process was later cancelled by Pakistani authorities. The highest bidder had offered $6.8 million for the property, which sits in the heart of the city. Pre-auction evaluation of the building on 'as is' basis was set for $4.5 million as a benchmark.

The building has been unoccupied for well over a decade. The building's diplomatic status was also revoked in 2018, which made it liable to pay taxes to the local government.

The real estate categorisation, according to building codes here, is listed as:

  • Class 1 - improved residential real property that is occupied and is used exclusively for non-transient residential dwelling purposes;
  • Class 2- Commercial property;
  • Class 3 - Vacant property;
  • Class 4 - Blighted property.

The District of Columbia's official documents revealed that the Pakistani government did not get any tax relief on that property from 2018 onwards. The building was first categorised as Class 2 because it was commercial in 2018 and 2019. It was then placed into Class 3 because it was vacant for three years from 2020 to 2022. 

Late last month, the building's property classification was further downgraded and it has now been designated as Class 4 for its deteriorated condition.

The local government's Department of Buildings determines a building as blighted if it's unsafe, insanitary, or otherwise determined to threaten the health, safety, or general welfare of the community.

The building department makes the determination on the basis of the following factors:

  • Is the building boarded up?
  • Are doors, windows, and other openings weather-tight and secured against?
  • Are exterior walls free of holes, graffiti, and rotting material?
  • Are all exposed metal and wood surfaces protected from decay by paint, or another weather-coating material?
  • Are all balconies, porches, signs, and similar features safe and sound?

It's also pertinent to mention that Class 3 is taxed at $5 per $100 of assessed value and Class 4 is taxed at $10.00 per $100 of assessed value. The Pakistani embassy would have to pay more taxes on a perpetually devaluing property.

Since it was not looked after properly, the building ended up in deteriorating conditions even though in 2010 then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani had approved the repairs through a $7 million loan from the National Bank of Pakistan.

The News reached out to the Pakistani embassy for comments, but did not get a response till the filing of this report.