A reader down in Washington, D.C., recently shared with us this amusing Facebook status update from one of his friends: “Gentrification (noun): When a Supreme Court justice moves into the [condo above] the first apartment you lived in DC, which used to share a block with an abandoned gas station / drug den and a ‘do not bring guns to [elementary] school’ sign.”
Who’s the justice in question, intrepidly moving into a gentrifying neighborhood? None other than Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The Wise Latina recently acquired a condo in D.C.’s uber-trendy U Street corridor.
How much did she pay for her new place? And what does it look like? Yes, we have pictures….
After renting for several years in Cleveland Park, the justice paid $660,000 June 19 for a two-bedroom condominium in the [U Street] neighborhood, according to D.C. property tax records. Sotomayor paid about $136,000 more than the unit’s current property tax assessment.
The neighborhood is already famous for venues like the Lincoln and Howard theaters, the 9:30 Club and, of course, Ben’s Chili Bowl. But the emerging neighborhood now has Sotomayor among its famous homeowners.
Sotomayor, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment. The address of the condo building is being withheld at the request of the Supreme Court, which cited safety issues in asking that the Washington Business Journal not disclose that information.
We’re willing to comply with that request as well. But even though we won’t reveal the address (or show you photos of the building’s exterior), we do know which building (and even which unit) Justice Sotomayor purchased. Anyone with an internet connection can look up the information.
Lady Soto didn’t engage in the practice — increasingly popular among well-heeled buyers here in New York — of buying her new place using a shell corporation. Check out this property record, which includes her real name (click to enlarge):
Why did Justice Sotomayor buy now (besides historically low mortgage rates)? According to the Washington Post’s Reliable Source column, “[f]riends say she wanted to get to know the city before she picked a neighborhood, and the busy job didn’t give her a lot of time to go looking.”
The Post adds that “as a longtime public servant who wanted to keep her Greenwich Village condo, it probably took a while to save up enough for the hot D.C. real estate market.” But let’s not forget: last year, the Wise Latina landed a $1.2 million book deal. So a $660,000 condo sounds well within her means.
Also, keep in mind that (1) she has very little debt on her million-dollar condo back in NYC, and (2) as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, she earns more than $200,000 a year — and doesn’t have to worry about getting laid off.
It seems that Justice Sotomayor has straightened up her finances since the days of $15,000 in outstanding dentist bills. In addition, as noted by DCist, it seems that her new D.C. home qualifies for a $67,500 homestead credit that could lower her property tax bill. Suze Orman would be proud!
But one of our tipsters, who currently lives in the area, was not impressed by Justice Sotomayor’s selection. “If that is her place, she has questionable real estate taste,” he told us. “It’s kind of a sad building. The Wise Latina is not that wise.”
(My colleague Elie Mystal responded: “What a surprise! A Latina moves into the neighborhood, and now her neighbors are pissed.”)
A second reader respectfully dissented from the negative assessment:
I toured the building when I was looking at condos a couple of years back. It’s very nice…. [and] it looks like she got a good deal on the unit and was able to purchase it for less than the last sale (although the original purchaser bought at the height of the housing bubble, the prices in that area have been relatively stable).
Now that you’ve heard some pros and the cons about the building and the unit, we’ll tell you more about the property and show you some pretty pictures, so you can decide for yourself….