March 24, 2011 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Center faces displacement again

The planned construction of a new hotel could force the D.C. LGBT community center out of its current storefront location at 1318 U St., N.W., as soon as June 2012, according to Center executive director David Mariner.

Mariner said the Center’s landlord, JBG Properties, just informed him that it could no longer renew leases of tenants along the 1300 block of U Street beyond June 2012. He said JBG officials cited plans to demolish all buildings along more than half of the south side of the block, including the Center’s building, to make way for the hotel.

“We don’t know the exact date because we don’t know what the timeline for the construction will be,” Mariner said. “We could be asked to leave as soon as June 2012, and that will be right before the international AIDS conference.”

The Center, among other things, will host the National Gay Men’s Health Summit set to coincide with the international AIDS conference, which begins in July 2012. “We’re looking forward to bringing a lot of gay, bisexual and transgender men to D.C. to talk about gay men’s health, and hopefully we’ll have a place to do it.”

Mariner said that while the Center continues to grow it is not yet capable of purchasing its own building without help from the city. City officials have said the city’s current financial problems, including a large projected budget deficit, prevents the city from providing the Center with funds to buy a building at this time.

One proposal being discussed, according to Mariner, is for the city to give the Center free space or space at below market rent in the nearby Reeves Center, a city-owned office building with first-floor retail space. The Reeves Center is located at the corner of 14th and U streets, N.W., one block from the U Street Metro Station.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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