July 25, 2013 at 8:31 am EDT | 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)

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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

  • Jason

    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.

    • Morph Hooligan

      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?

    • 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.

  • Mike

    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.

  • WufPup

    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.

  • Willie Millard

    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.

  • brian

    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.

  • Pingback: Vamos United stadium()

    • Willie Millard

      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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