The quick and enthusiastic embrace of a tentative deal announced last Thursday by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to convey land to Major League Soccer’s D.C. United for team construction of a new stadium was notable. Seldom does a complex civic arrangement of such magnitude enjoy the level of immediate and broad-based support from the public, the media and city officials that followed.
In contrast, reaction by D.C. LGBT Community Center leadership was both unseemly and shortsighted. While a city was celebrating a major step forward in local economic development, the group publicly and parochially pilloried the mayor.
Once the drama subsided, however, the Center has managed to adopt a more circumspect and productive tone.
The group’s comportment was in response to news of the eventual termination of the community center’s recently acquired long-term lease at the Reeves Center at 14th and U streets. This was due to the plan to trade the property in a “land swap” allowing acquisition of a major portion of the stadium site.
The assurance of assistance by Gray was as expeditious as it was expected. At the outdoor news conference at the stadium site revealing the planned property exchange transactions, he indicated that city administrators would assist the Center in finding a suitable space at an appropriately located city building.
Sure, the news of a scheduled loss of the Center’s new storefront location came as an emotional disappointment. But denial had been employed in ignoring public speculation since spring that a deal to trade the city’s aging and broke-down behemoth of a building to a local development company in exchange for stadium site land it owns was potentially in the works.
Angered they would be required to relocate prior to the original lease expiration, out came the “victim card” from the top of the deck.
Yes, the disintegrating structure, derided by many as a “basket case” building blighting the nexus of the city’s most rapidly developing commercial corridors, would be demolished. If the stadium deal garners D.C. Council approval as expected, a large privately developed mixed-use housing and retail complex will replace it.
A multi-faceted process delaying the Center’s lease termination for approximately two-plus years allows the organization the option of continuing with renovation and move-in. The group must vacate its current location in less than 60 days.
The Center indicated in a statement on Friday evening that it was halting work on the space until better able to assess the situation following meetings this week with city officials on potential longer-range options – a sensible approach. The smart solution may even prove to be continuing with the renovation with usage through 2015 or later.
Revising an unrealistic desire for prime storefront retail space in an increasingly expensive commercial area, allowed by past temporary arrangements provided by developers with transitional space available for limited duration, is required.
It’s fair to say that multiple options are likely to be identified. The D.C. Center will be fine.
The same cannot be said of the dilemma awaiting Ziegfeld’s/Secrets nightclub, located proximate to the planned soccer stadium in Southwest Washington at Buzzard Point near Nationals Stadium. Its near-term prospects are much less certain.
Once ancillary development in the area immediately surrounding the footprint of the new stadium inevitably begins, the possibility that the venue will lose its lease due to property sale increases. The property owner is already fielding inquiries.
If displaced, relocation options are extraordinarily limited, if not insurmountable, due to restrictions enacted when it and similar businesses were previously displaced from the baseball stadium site. In fact, Ziegfeld’s/Secrets is the only sexually oriented gay business among the group still in operation.
Possessing one of a few strip club licenses, the venue is prohibited nearly everywhere, notably industrial sections of Northeast D.C. Restrictions on both the number and permissible locations within appropriately zoned areas preclude a solution.
That’s what the city needs to remedy.
Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.