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RE: [columbia_heights] Alley closing Hearing

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  • Sueiro, Jose (EOM)
    Elizabeth, First and foremost let me say how much I admire and respect the work you do. Secondly, please excuse me if my postings go on too long. It is,
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 5, 2001
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      Elizabeth,

      First and foremost let me say how much I admire and respect the work you do.
      Secondly, please excuse me if my postings go on too long. It is,
      unfortunately, an all too common habit from my journalism days.

      But let me say that I disagree with your metaphor. This process is more like
      the election of a politician rather than some physical thing one wants such
      as a house or a grandfather clock. You don't move out of a city if you
      dislike or disagree with your Mayor, do you? You try and get the most you
      can out of him/her and agree to disagree, I would think.

      These development processes are always messy and never very satisfying. I
      wrote an opinion piece for the Post (that they badly mangled in the editing)
      about the Tivoli process and had quite a few conversations with Mr. Robert
      Walker who headed up the RLA at that time.

      Even though, as you point out, our community has been badly, horribly
      served, given the context of our reality as residents of the last colony (or
      last plantation as Beverly Wheeler likes to call it), I believe we've got a
      situation -right here and now- where we can greatly influence what comes out
      of there. Without, I might add, blowing up the whole thing and starting
      over.

      The past cannot be changed and whereas I am by no means desperate, I do
      think there is some urgency to get on with this. I have lived here 30 years
      and never seen anything else on that corner but the ruins of the Tivoli.

      I don't think this is being 'slapped together' and I do think these people,
      Horning et. al. are under a great deal of pressure to 'get it right' (or at
      least better). Already I read in this egroup that those most concerned with
      historic accuracy and preservation are having at the development.

      What worries me is that in the name of correctness and 'best possible
      outcome' the real effort is to stall and destroy. What is the saying when
      the perfect is the enemy of the good or something like that?

      You see, I believe the city is rushing so fast into a new era where low and
      moderate income folks are getting squished out that I would like to see
      what, maybe 100 or 200 jobs created at that parcel, even if many of them are
      menial or modest. But if we don't do this soon, at the rate we're going now,
      it may be too late for any of our neighbors who suffer those conditions to
      live and work here. It's what's happening down on 14th & W and yes, even on
      lower Georgia.

      Someone in Mt. Pleasant (I say it was Athena Viscusi, but she denies it)
      said that rather than more Historic Preservation what we need is more
      'people preservation'. Buildings, no matter how historic, should not and
      cannot damage the spirit, progress or harmony of a community. If the last
      things left on this earth are a book and a human life and you can only save
      one, you save the life, -civilization will repeat itself. The community in
      Columbia Heights (all of it) is precious, far more precious than the correct
      and accurate preservation of a building which some claim had a pretty
      checkered past anyway. But that is neither here nor there. The Tivoli is to
      be saved, now let's work on saving those that live around it!


      -----Original Message-----
      From: Elizabeth McIntire [mailto:elizabeth@...]
      Sent: Monday, June 04, 2001 6:41 PM
      To: Columbia Heights
      Subject: [columbia_heights] Alley closing Hearing


      Caroline,Jose,et.al,

      When, if it were you, personally, would you say take less that
      you imagined , because you want SOMETHING?
      One answer is when you're desperate,and someone has convinced you
      there are no other options.

      If it were your house, where you expect to live for 30 years,
      would you say, YEAH, let's do a half-_____ job just to get it
      over with? And then fix it,over and over ?

      If it were your job, or school, or church, do you think your
      boss,or teacher, or pastor --would say, yeah, let's just slap
      something together ?

      If you had a nice old grandfather clock,say--been the family for
      years -- would you take out the works and use them for an travel
      alarm clock and turn the frame into a book shelf,say , because
      you did not have either one in the house at that moment?

      The people in this community will have to live with the results
      of this 4-year cycle thinking , long after the politicians are
      gone and the developers have made their money and moved on.

      We still have the chance to restore 14th St to something which
      reflects its past commercial strength, providing essential
      services to this and surrounding neighborhoods, with a unique
      attraction which exists no where else in this city .

      I can understand the impatience , but I wonder if people realize
      that the pace of development has been determined by factors way
      beyond the neighborhood--
      --It was the city who refused to dump its selected developer,
      Haft,for 15 years when he did not do anything with the 6 sites
      under the Exclusive Rights Agreement.
      --It was the city that never purchased the privately owned
      section of Parcel 27,the Woolworths site(it did not have money in
      the 80's)
      --It was the city that had a non-functioning Planning Office for
      years
      --It was the METRO opening that has spurred interest in
      investment in Columbia Heights
      --It is federal housing incentives that built, and investment
      terms that are expiring, that threatens low-income housing in
      this neighborhood
      --It was the city's neglect of basic services, the property it
      owns in the neighborhood, and housing inspection and enforcement
      that perpetuated substandard housing and blight in this
      community
      --It was the city that selected 2 new developers without
      experience in MAJOR commercial development
      --It was the city that has left the other 4 sites unawarded for
      almost 2 years now
      --It was the proposal of one of the selected developers to tear
      down two walls of an historic building
      which is protected as a Local Landmark and on the National
      Register, which is not permitted
      --It was the Control Board who sat on the ERA agreements for six
      months before signing off
      --It was the Movie Industry that overbuilt in the suburbs and put
      itself in financial jeopardy
      --It will be the banks and the retailers, market experts,
      lawyers, etc. who are inclined to go for what it most
      profitable(and safe) for themsleves

      Sorry , this post is too long.

      Elizabeth McIntire













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    • rllayman@hotmail.com
      ... denies it) said that rather than more Historic Preservation what we need is more people preservation . Buildings, no matter how historic, should not and
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 6, 2001
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        --- In columbia_heights@y..., "Sueiro, Jose (EOM)" <jose.sueiro@d...>
        wrote:
        >
        > Someone in Mt. Pleasant (I say it was Athena Viscusi, but she
        denies it) said that rather than more Historic Preservation what we
        need is more 'people preservation'. Buildings, no matter how
        historic, should not and cannot damage the spirit, progress or
        harmony of a community. If the last things left on this earth are a
        book and a human life and you can only save one, you save the life, -
        civilization will repeat itself. The community in Columbia Heights
        (all of it) is precious, far more precious than the correct
        > and accurate preservation of a building which some claim had a
        pretty checkered past anyway. But that is neither here nor there. The
        Tivoli is to be saved, now let's work on saving those that live
        around it!

        Originally, I deleted this message after reading it, but in
        retrospect I decided it was important to respond. Historic
        preservation and "people preservation" don't have to be either/or.
        It often looks that way, and perhaps those of us concerned about
        historic preservation don't always seem as concerned about some of
        the other issues.

        In Washington, a key part of the heritage of this city is the
        architecture/streetscape, etc. It's certainly what separates us from
        the cookie cutter suburbs. And, maybe more than you know, some
        incredible incredible Washington buildings are long gone. Maybe the
        Tivoli wouldn't matter (I think it does regardless) if ten to twenty
        other theaters hadn't been already knocked down. Just a cursory look
        at the book _Capitol Losses_ which chronicles destroyed gems of the
        city sees many fine theaters destroyed. Looking through the Wymer
        collection of photos at the Historical Society (taken in the late
        1940s), just in my neighborhood there were photos of two other
        theaters out on side streets, theaters that are now gone.

        Anyway, I am diverging....

        The Architecture Foundation has produced a great documentary
        called "Block by Block" which looks at community revitalization
        efforts in three different cities across the U.S. The first vignette
        is about the Sweet Auburn area of Atlanta, a historically African-
        American part of that city, perhaps somewhat comparable to our U
        Street area in terms of the entertainment and cultural history.

        Anyway, the Historic District Preservation Corp. is the community
        development corporation in that area that seems to be doing great
        work. Their work is guided by three tenets, all of which have to be
        satisfied before they pursue any project: (1) historic preservation;
        (2) economic development; AND (3) no displacement of current
        residents.

        Historic preservation doesn't prima facie have to mean a lack of
        concern for "people preservation." Historic preservation can hardly
        be blamed for the lack of firm affordable housing guidelines in
        District building policies. It certainly can't be blamed for
        developers trying to force out low-income residents by neglecting
        properties, hoping to redevelop them as upscale housing.

        In the efforts I am pursuing in Northeast I am trying to keep the
        issues of displacement and gentrification at the forefront of my
        efforts, some things I came across that are relevant are:

        http://www.brook.edu/urban/gentrification/gentrificationexsum.htm

        Which is a report called "Dealing with Neighborhood Change: A Primer
        on Gentrification and Policy Choices" from the brookings Institution
        and a related document called "Thinkers and Resources for Promoting
        Equitable Development" available via www.policylink.org

        I am supposed to be getting a copy of "Block by Block" soon, and I'd
        be happy to lend it to people interested in seeing it in CH. It
        really made me feel hopeful after viewing it, and after all, working
        on these kinds of issues, it's too often that we walk away feeling
        quite down.

        Richard Layman
        Northeast Washington
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