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WaPo: Downtown D.C. development holdout saw a likely fortune vanish

Lanky Livingston

A lesson on not being greedy, and answering the door when opportunity knocks. Really kind of a sad story, but also makes me want to slap this guy upside the head for being so dumb, and not listening to his advisors.

Downtown D.C. development holdout saw a likely fortune vanish

At the dizzying height of the real estate boom, Austin Spriggs had the equivalent of a golden lottery ticket: a downtown Washington townhouse on precisely the red-hot block where developers hoped to build hundreds of swanky condominiums and offices.

In and out of his office the developers paraded, offering Spriggs millions for the building that had housed his small architecture firm since 1980. Each time, Spriggs told them no, holding out for more money. Then, as offers dried up, he vowed to turn the place into a pizzeria that would feed newcomers to the once-forgotten strip along Massachusetts Avenue, east of the Washington Convention Center.

At a time when mountains of cash were being made in real estate, Spriggs's resistance became the talk of Washington and beyond.

Four years later, the block-long crater that surrounded Spriggs's building is occupied by glass, steel and brick towers. The pizzeria never opened. Two months ago, after his bank threatened foreclosure, Spriggs put the property up for sale for $1.5 million, nearly half of what one developer had once hoped to pay him.

No offer has been made.

In any life, there can be moments when one's fortune changes in a seismic way, when unforeseen doors open and opportunities bloom. The lynchpin might be a winning lottery ticket or a new job or a piece of real estate everyone wants.

By any measure, Austin Spriggs is a man who missed his Champagne moment.


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