Why the city won’t sell Joy Oil gas station until they figure out what to do with it

Want to know why the historic Joy Oil gas station on Wisconsin Avenue is still waiting for a new owner?

It cost the city $400,000 to repair the building that served as the Horace Greeley gas station during World War II. And yet, a $60,000 bid has gone unopened.

In April, the 1848-era hardware store, built near Seventh and Virginia streets NW, became a priority for the city, which owns it, and the National Park Service, which maintains the World War II Memorial. The city was in talks with the former owner, Goodwill of the Greater Washington, which had put the property up for sale for $660,000. Then in June, it narrowed its focus to one bidder, Vantage Park Properties, which has owned the nine properties under its management for more than a decade.

But the waiting began. Vantage has completed nearly every aspect of the purchase and construction—including a new roof, work on the water system, an elevator and renovations. It submitted its bid the day the City Council approved agreements between the city and companies bidding to sell nonprofit properties—which makes it all but impossible to take over Joy, and other properties like it.

The owner of Vantage, Michael Graham, says that’s all a matter of timing. He says the selection process is already in progress, and he hopes to close on the building in three weeks. He says the property would benefit the nonprofit agencies that currently use it, and he believes the acquisition is a win-win. However, he says, he has declined requests for an interview from Washingtonian and the city.

Scott Leonard, a spokesman for Mayor Muriel Bowser, says the mayor’s office is “obviously disappointed” that the city hasn’t reached a conclusion yet. The administration was beginning a lengthy process involving government purchases, he says, and the city believes a successful bid means a better option for all of the parties.

“The goal is to find an owner who would ensure the best interests of the property and also create jobs and increase business,” Leonard says.

He also stresses that the city doesn’t have any money at stake—no matter who buys the building, the park service will still maintain it. The city would do everything to make the building accessible to the public, he says, pointing to a $100,000 grant from Stonington Property Management to ensure the building will be repaired and restored.

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