July 25, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Soccer stadium would displace D.C. Center, gay nightclub
DC United, Mayor Vincent Gray, Stadium, Jason Levien,

Managing partner of D.C. United, Jason Levien, and Mayor Vincent C. Gray, sign a public-private partnership to build a new soccer stadium in the city’s Southwest district on Thursday, July 25, 2013, at the future construction site. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED: CLICK HERE FOR THE NEWEST VERSION

A preliminary $300 million deal proposed by Mayor Vincent Gray that reportedly calls for turning over the city’s Reeves Center municipal building to a developer in exchange for land to build a new soccer stadium would lead to the displacement of the LGBT Community Center, which is set to move into the Reeves Center in September.

The potentially controversial deal, which must be approved by the City Council, would also result in the displacement of the popular gay nightclub Ziegfeld’s/Secrets, which is located close to where the D.C. United soccer stadium would be built in the Buzzard Point section of Southwest Washington.

Although the stadium itself would not be built on the site where Ziegfeld’s/Secrets is located, the deal reportedly calls for building a hotel and shops and restaurants adjacent to the stadium, and those structures would displace the gay club.

If approved, the soccer stadium deal would force Ziegfeld’s/Secrets to search for a new location six years after it was displaced from its original home on the site of the Washington Nationals stadium.

Gray and officials with the D.C. United Soccer team were scheduled to announce the deal at a news conference at 11 a.m. Thursday at a location set to be disclosed early Thursday morning.

The Washington Post reported details of the deal on Thursday night that it obtained from City Administrator Allen Lew, who negotiated the agreement for the mayor, according to the Post.

“In the most high-profile swap, the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, located at 14th and U streets, N.W., would transfer to D.C.-based developer Akridge in exchange for about two acres of Buzzard Point, nearly a quarter of the land needed for the stadium, and cash to make up an expected difference in the value of the two properties,” the Post reported.

News of the reported deal comes shortly after the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community signed a 15-year lease with the city to rent space in the Reeves Center. An unrelated development project is forcing the Center to leave its current space on U Street, N.W. less than a block from the Reeves Center.

When unconfirmed reports surfaced earlier this year that the Reeves Center was under consideration for a land swap to facilitate the building of a new soccer stadium, Gray told LGBT activists at a Pride Week town hall meeting sponsored by the Washington Blade that he was not aware of any such plans.

D.C. Center officials said the cost of renovations needed to get the Reeves Center space ready for occupancy would exceed $50,000. Its lease for space in the building, which is considered to be in a highly desirable area, requires that the Center rather than the city pay for renovation work.

Center Executive Director David Mariner said the lease provides for protections against the breaking of the lease before its 15-year term expires. But it could not immediately be determined if those protections would compensate the center for the money it paid for the renovation and for moving expenses should it be forced to find a new home.

Sources familiar with the land swap deal have said the Akridge development company was not expected to displace the Reeves Center’s occupants immediately should it gain possession of the building. However, Akridge President Mathew J. Klein told the Post the company would push for a mixed-use project on the site of the Reeves Center that would include new housing should it obtain the building. This suggests the company would seek to demolish the Reeves Center building and build a new structure.

City Administrator Lew told the Post the city is already making plans to move city agencies that now occupy the Reeves Center to a city office building in Anacostia.

The Ziegfeld’s/Secrets building is owned by Denver, Colo., businessman Marty Chernoff, who operated the D.C. gay nightclub Tracks before it closed to make way for a new office building in Southeast D.C. Chernoff couldn’t immediately be reached to determine if he has been approached to sell his building to developers linked to the soccer stadium deal.

In the case of the baseball stadium, the city declared eminent domain to seize property from private owners on the site the city selected to build the stadium. The eminent domain statute requires the city to pay fair market price for the property it takes.

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

29 Comments
  • WTF is wrong with the stadium they already have?

  • Joseph Organgrinder

    Apparently that other sports stadium that shut down Nations was not enough; They will soon build a lacrosse field that will go where Zigfield's is.

  • This is stupid. And in a side note Ziegfelds lost its old home before to condos and a stadium in addition to Nation and Wet. The drag queens still joke about where on the baseball diamond the stage use to be.

  • How many times can they evict Ziegfelds?

  • They are not being evicted. The owner will sell the building to developers for a very healthy profit. The Buzzard Point area is blighted and needs the revitalization.

  • Everyone just wants to follow the gays!

  • Kyle Jones-Northam

    A new soccer stadium will be much better for DC than a venue for drag queens. RFK is falling apart. DC United is a good franchise for DC, but they will leave the city entirely if they do not get a worthy facility to play in. Besides, drag venues are so 20th century.

    • DCU has needed a new stadium for over a decade now. Not only will the stadium be there and be built out of the owners Pockets, buisness will also be set up outside the stadium, who’s to say the club can’t just move into one of those spots?

  • FYI, unlike with the baseball stadium, Ziegfelds/Secrets isn't in the proposed soccer stadium's footprint.

  • wtf again?

  • @Matt, correct – however "the deal reportedly calls for building a hotel and shops and restaurants adjacent to the stadium, and those structures would displace the gay club" why can't they just tear down RFK and rebuild it if it's that bad off????

    • Because it would be tacky not to rename it, and whoever is proposing this new stadium probably wants to work with some corporate sponsor (i.e., Nissan Pavilion, Verizon Center, FedEx Field) to aid in the construction. No one is buying shares of Robert F. Kennedy at the NYSE.

  • peter rosenstein

    If this all goes through it is a great deal for the people of the District of Columbia. This is a very different project than the baseball stadium. Everyone who follows real estate in the District knew that the Reeves Center on ‘U’ street wasn’t going to stay there forever in its current form. It is basically an ugly building on a site that could provide much needed new tax revenue to the District.

    I know that there are many ways that the DC Center can be made whole if this comes to pass and a lot of community activists like myself will fight to see that tey come out OK.

  • Move Ziegfields/Secrets across the bridge to the other end of South Capitol Street SW. There is empty space, street parking, and the crime in that area has nosedived in the past few years. I’m sure the leasing and housing is cheap as well, because investors have been buying up like crazy in the area this year.

  • Kyle Jones-Northam

    Charger Stone Because not only is RFK falling apart; the location is undevelopable. There are plenty of venues for drag shows in DC. I'm pretty sure I saw some drag queens at Town and Nellie's. But if DC United doesn't get a good stadium in a good location, they'll leave DC. They're too important to this city—and to a lot of gay soccer fans—for us to let that happen.

  • Charger Stone Because the District doesn't control RFK; it is a federal memorial to Robert Kennedy. In the meantime, we were at risk of losing a major, revenue-generating sports franchise as well as developing (and opening to further tax revenues) a part of the District that is presently highly under-utilized.

  • While there might be other places able to host a venue the size of Ziegfields/Secrets. What was not mentioned was the special type of performance(?) license they have which allows them to have nude dancers. If/when the establishment has to move, not only will they have to find an appropriate spot, but also have to deal with the whole zoning issues related to their license, as it will likely become a NIMBY issue for neighbors (both commercial and residential).

    Unless they can get some sort of grandfathering in, it will be difficult to see when/where they could move. I believe one of the only other gay establishments that have a license like that is Remingtons in Eastern Market.

    I’d personally love to see Z/S stay where they are as part of a development — lord knows the joint has a lot more ambiance (and better drinks) than some cookie cutter corporate bar such as The Greene Turtle or Union Jack’s.

  • If corporate welfare is what it takes to keep them in the District, then good riddance.

  • Here is the trade off….. If we cannot see nude dancers then the sports players in both stadiums have to play naked….. Does this sound like a good compromise?

  • Kyle Jones-Northam

    Dave Edmondson They will be building their own stadium. Hardly corporate welfare on par with what the Nationals got.

  • It's not on par with what the Nationals got, but that's a difference of degree, not kind.

  • Kyle Jones-Northam

    Professional sports are an essential part of the cultural life of a world class city, especially an international sport like soccer. So it's reasonable for the city to make measured concessions to keep DC United in town.

  • Ziegfelds/Secrets and The Glory Hole were the only two clubs to reopen after the Baseball Stadium. I doubt there will be anywhere in DC that would welcome a nude dance club. La Cage/Heat tried but was met with community protests.

    I will miss the drag shows. I hope they find a new place.

  • @Rob M. i was aware that RFK is falling apart and needs to be repairs but was unaware that it is considered federal property. Why S/Z is really of little concern to me personally (not to say it isn't important to a lot of employees there) I care more about the amount of money the DC Center has spent to get into the Reeves center, which is at risk because of this proposal. Is it true that the RFK location CAN'T be developed on at all?

  • Mayor Gray should not be doling out corporate welfare to anyone until he adds 300-400 MPD officers to keep pace with DC’s explosive growth. We had 3,900 sworn officers in 2007 and we STILL have 3, 900 officers! No wonder why hate crimes perpetrators are getting away with their crimes. MPD no longer has the human resources to catch the guilty and bring them to justice.

    That works out on average to every police district doing the police work of 50 more officers. In our police district (5D) that amounts to the loss of SEVEN officers in each of our neighborhood-level PSAs. Gray is playing an ongoing public safety con-game on us.

    This week Gray’s MPD has been caught trying to cover up or minimize a violent *FLASH MOB* assault by 10 perpetrators at the Yes! Organic Market in Ward 5. This gang even threatened to kill the manager. According to reports of witnesses, it took MPD 25 minutes to arrive after the first 911 call was made.

  • There is no mention in the final agreement about any properties east of Half Street (i.e., Ziegfield's). The "hotel and shops" referred to in the article are covered in Sec. 5A of the agreement, which clearly states that the team is allowed to build ancillary development on the stadium site, again west of Half Street. Not that Ziegfield's landlord couldn't sell their land on their own — I'm sure that's their eventual goal — but nothing announced yesterday would require that.

    As for RFK, it is much too large, has structural problems, and would be costly to demolish.

  • As many times as it takes to bring in DC to the sport mat… The Queens and the boys might have to move to P.G. County…

    • You are right or even maybe Baltimore. Virginia is too expensive. Industrial areas just over the DC line in Brentwood or Hyattsville are good options. Maybe even College Park.

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