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.