November 4, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. Center moves into new space at Reeves Center
David Mariner, Michael Sessa, D.C. Center, LGBT, gay, bisexual, transgender, lesbian, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Center Executive Director David Mariner, right, and Michael Sessa. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

With little fanfare and no official announcement, the D.C. LGBT Community Center moved into its new home at the city’s Reeves Center municipal building last week in the heart of the city’s booming commercial and entertainment district at 14th and U Streets, N.W.

On Friday afternoon, D.C. Center Executive Director David Mariner and local interior designer Paul Corrie, who donated his services for the design of the rooms and walls, were overseeing workers and volunteers place finishing touches to the gleaming new space of 2,468 square feet.

Mariner said the Center is looking forward to its official grand opening celebration scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 23, from noon to 4 p.m., to which the public is invited. The new space at 2000 14th St., N.W., Ste. 105, is located less than a block from the Center’s old offices at 1318 U St., N.W.

The move into the smartly designed and furnished new space comes just over two months after the Center learned that the Reeves building was expected to be demolished in two or three years as part of a city land deal linked to plans for a new soccer stadium near the Southwest waterfront.

Center President Michael Sessa declined to disclose whether the city agreed to modify the 15-year lease agreement the organization signed earlier this year, at a monthly rent of $4,000, and to compensate the Center for having to vacate the premises years earlier than planned. At the time the lease was signed, Center officials expected to amortize the more than $70,000 it cost to renovate the new space over a period of at least 15 years.

When D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced in late July that the Reeves building was expected to close in just a few years, the Center’s board announced it was stopping construction on the ground floor, storefront space “until we have a better understanding of where the mayor proposes to relocate the Center.”

In a separate statement to the Blade on Friday, Sessa said, “The Center is in the process of moving into the Reeves Center now. We need some time to catch our breath, let the dust settle and then we’ll issue a communication for all.”

Sessa added, “I’m working with the board to develop a statement that will articulate where we stand and what has happened since construction was halted.”

City Administrator Allen Y. Lew is in charge of putting together a $300 million land deal in which the city will turn over the Reeves Center to a developer who, in turn, will give the city part of the land in Buzzard Point needed to build the new stadium for the D.C. United soccer team.

According to the Washington Post, Lew insists the deal will move ahead as planned, even though some members of the D.C. City Council – including gay Council members David Catania (I-At-Large) and Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) – and Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large) have raised concerns about the cost of the project for the city.

On Friday, Mariner and close to a dozen volunteers were busily unwrapping furniture and computer workstations, which will be available to members of the community as part of the Center’s wide range of programs.

A sofa and other furnishings for a lounge located in front of large windows overlooking the sidewalk on 14th Street, N.W., were donated by Mitchell Gold, Mariner said. He said other businesses and organizations helped finance and furnish other rooms by becoming official sponsors of the rooms.

According to Mariner, the Crew Club, a gym and spa that caters to gay men, sponsored the spacious conference room; the Dupont Social Club sponsored the lounge; the Stonewall Kickball League sponsored the activity room; and Capital Pride, the group that organizes the city’ annual LGBT Pride parade and festival, sponsored the reception area.

Mariner said the reception area was placed near the door that leads to the Reeves Center’s first-floor atrium, which he said the Center will use as its main entrance. He said the entrance to the street won’t be used as a primary entrance.

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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