Prospective buyers eye former Dupont Sunoco site

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The Sunoco service station at 2200 P St. NW closed at the end of 2016, and the property owner quickly removed the gas pumps amid plans to redevelop the site. (Brian Kapur/The Current/February 2017)

The heavily scrutinized property at 2200 P St. NW in Dupont Circle — the site of a popular, recently shuttered Sunoco service station — might be on the road to changing hands, as several parties have recently expressed in taking over the site from its current owner.

The New York-based Marx Realty purchased the property last year in the hopes of moving the historic service station building to one side of the site to make room for a nine-story apartment building. Neighbors protested the proposed designs and the prospect of closing the full-service station, which had operated in the neighborhood in several iterations since 1936.

Hamood Abutaa, who owned and operated the Sunoco until Marx Realty declined to renew his lease at the end of last year, has tentative plans to try purchasing the property himself and reopening, he told The Current on Monday. Meanwhile, another developer has told residents at the next-door Dumbarton Place Condominiums that it might also pursue the property, unit association president Michael Tanner said Tuesday.

“The feasibility of doing it is very practical and very normal to get that place back up and running,” Abutaa said of purchasing the site, currently valued at just over $3.5 million, according to D.C. property records. Abutaa did add a cautionary note: He hasn’t heard from property owner Marx Realty since he made several attempts to communicate with the company prior to the Sunoco closure. A Marx representative declined to comment for this story.

Tanner said the developer who talked to his group hasn’t yet decided how far to pursue the property. But if he moves forward, Tanner and his fellow residents plan to advocate for restoring the service station, and perhaps exploring a retail option like a restaurant. “I don’t think anybody wants something of the scale that’s been proposed by Marx Realty,” Tanner said in an interview.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B (Dupont Circle) voted unanimously last Wednesday to request that the Sunoco be reopened, and that the city reject any future construction permit applications on the site unless they involve reviving the Sunoco station. “We might not get it but there’s no reason not to try,” commissioner Daniel Warwick said at the meeting.

The Sunoco at 2200 P St. NW, now closed, is slated for redevelopment. (Brian Kapur/The Current/October 2016)

Amid turmoil over development plans, Marx forced the Sunoco station out in December, despite subsequent protests from city officials that the closure violated a citywide ban on closing full-service stations. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine concluded earlier this month that Marx’s decision to close the service station violated the law and that the city’s Department of Energy & Environment could fine Abutaa $20,000.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has decided not to enforce the fine, according to her spokesperson Susana Castillo, who pointed to the long-dormant Gas Station Advisory Board that was once involved with such closures. “It would raise due process concerns for there to be a fine for failing to secure permission from a board that does not exist,” Castillo wrote in an email.

Local residents feel strongly that Abutaa was a good steward of the site and a worthy addition to the Dupont landscape. Since Sunoco closed, Abutaa has rerouted the station’s phone number to his business partner, who sends maintenance requests to one of 10 other stations he operates under the Metro Motors umbrella — six in D.C., two in Virginia, two in Maryland.

In addition to inconveniencing neighbors and commuters, the loss of the Sunoco marks the latest in a string of service station closures nearby. Some observers have expressed skepticism that the loss of a station matters when other fill-up options remain nearby. But access to the wide range of offerings available at a full-service station is invaluable, Abutaa argues. Without it, constricted supply will lead to a situation akin to lower Manhattan, he said.

“We’re talking about an industry that is at the very least on the endangered species list, if not on the verge of extinction,” Abutaa said. “We are talking about something that is a big deal because once it’s gone, it’s gone.”