While Waterfront Reopens, Some Messes Still Need Cleaning Up
The Georgetown Waterfront continues to recover from its April 18 soaking, with both Tony and Joe’s and Nick’s outdoor dining reopening and the indoor restaurants continuing with renovations. Visitors to the area are trickling back, drawn in by events such as last weekend’s Dragon Boat Race and next Sunday’s Georgetown Waterfront Summer Celebration. The festival, hosted by the Georgetown BID and Washington Harbor, will feature a steel drum band, food catered by the area’s restaurants, face painting and a water balloon toss at 2 p.m. which is endorsed by the Washington Post’s “Going Out Guide.”
Despite all the revelry that is returning to the Georgetown Waterfront, it is difficult to ignore that fact that many windows are still boarded shut and employees who have been out of work since the flood are awaiting the outcome of a $5 million class action lawsuit against MRP Realty.
Why weren’t the floodwalls raised? This question appeared in almost all media coverage of the waterfront flooding which filled restaurants and businesses with as much as 12 feet of water. When the National Weather Service issues a flood warning, based on the water levels measured by a gauge at Harper’s Ferry, Washington Harbour and surrounding areas have about a day and a half to raise the floodwalls. This process takes about five hours to complete and costs approximately $15,000. The responsibility of this undertaking rests with the property owners.
MRP Realty bought the Washington Harbor from Prudential Real Estate Investors in June 2010 for about $240 million. MRP’s property management unit now oversees the waterfront area, a job previously managed for ten years by John Wilson until 1998, followed by Larry McCulley through Sept. 2010, neither of whom faced flooding problems of this scale. MRP has not provided explanation as to why the floodwalls were only partially raised or in some places, not raised at all.
A few days after the flood, Gary Mason of Mason LLP, a D.C. law firm, filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court on behalf of Charles Holcomb of Alexandria, a bartender at Farmers and Fishers. The federal court dismissed the initial complaint, but Mason filed a second complaint in the D.C. Superior Court on behalf of what is now 43 plaintiffs who are “persons and entities who have lost or will lose income as a result of the flooding.” The complaint alleges that MRP had sufficient time to raise the floodwalls and should have been aware of the risk posed to the Washington Harbour businesses, and was negligent in its failure to respond to that risk.
There have been no further developments in the case, but Mason hopes to settle with MRP and avoid a trial. A representative from MRP could not comment on the progression of the lawsuit.
The reconstruction of the affected establishments continues almost three months after the storm, but the National Flood Insurance generally covers property damage on the Washington Harbour. The claim could become complicated in light of the complaint filed against MRP, according to the Washington Business Journal, not to mention that the insurance does not account for the tens of thousands of dollars in revenue lost by those businesses each day or the loss of income for their employees.