Tenants seek to buy D.C.’s Onyx apartments

A group of residents at the Onyx on First apartments in D.C.’s Capital Riverfront neighborhood are weighing possible plans to acquire the 266-unit structure under a city law that gives renters the option to submit a competing bid for ownership of their building.

About 120 tenants of the 4-year-old building filed paperwork Friday with the District under D.C.’s Tenants Opportunity to Purchase Act and are exploring possible options, including converting the units to for-sale condominiums, keeping the property as a rental building but with a different owner, or developing a hybrid model with apartments and condos.

The filing was in response to a June 28 notice that the owner, Los Angeles-based Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds, has a contract to sell the building, at 1100 First St. SE, to Equity Residential for $82.5 million, or about $310,150 per unit.

D.C.’s TOPA act required Canyon-Johnson to give tenants the chance to submit a competing offer to buy the building because it is under a sale contract to Equity.

Association President Timothy Bolden said the residents are concerned about changes Equity would make if it buys the building, including possible increases in rental rates and a reduction in services and amenities. Beyond that, Bolden said the group does not want to be priced out of the neighborhood as the next victim of gentrification as development continues to transform the waterfront neighborhood.

“We don’t want to become the face of the new displaced in the near Southeast area,” Bolden said. “It’s a great neighborhood, a great mix of people, and we just want to see what our options are.”

If the D.C. housing department accepts the TOPA filing, the association would then have 120 days to come up with a firm, competing option to offer Canyon-Johnson.


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