D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and other public officials are scheduled to attend the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community’s official grand opening ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 23, at its new space in the city’s Reeves Center municipal building at 14th and U streets, N.W.
The event, scheduled to take place from 12-4 p.m., represents an important step in the D.C. Center’s 11-year history, according to Center President Michael Sessa.
“The move into Reeves is a monumental milestone not only for this version of The D.C. Center, but for all prior attempts and versions of a ‘GLBT’ center in D.C. since the ‘80s,” Sessa said in a statement.
The new space is located on the ground floor of the Reeves Center, with entrances both on 14th Street and through the building’s seven-story tall atrium, which the Center plans to use for events too large to fit into its new offices.
D.C. Center Executive Director David Mariner points out that the new space is double the size of the space at the old offices less than two blocks away at 1318 U St., N.W. Mariner said that through generous donations from key supporters, including local businesses, the new space was designed as a community center and includes expanded amenities such as a large conference room and office space for at least two LGBT organizations that will share the new space.
“I think we’re one step closer to the community center that we’ve dreamed about,” Mariner said. “And with twice as much square footage we’re going to be able to do a lot more,” he said.
The city announced earlier this year that it plans to sell the Reeves Center to a private developer and that the sale would likely result in the building being demolished as soon as three years from now. But Gray and other city officials have promised to make sure the D.C. Center finds a suitable new home if and when it’s forced to leave the Reeves Center prior to the end of its 15-year lease.
Sessa, meanwhile, announced in a Nov. 14 statement that he will be stepping down as the Center’s president and CEO on Jan. 1 but will remain on the board. Sessa said Mariner is being promoted to a new post of executive director and CEO.
“My goal in serving as president and CEO was to ensure the long-term sustainability of a center, to get one established, as I always truly believed D.C. would be better served by a community center similar to how so many other cities across the nation and around the world have benefitted,” he said.
Sessa has played a lead role in transforming the Center from a fledgling start-up project with no permanent home in 2002 to a thriving LGBT organization, according Center board member and veteran lesbian activist Patricia Hawkins.