RE: [columbia_heights] Alley closing Hearing
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
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
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!
From: Elizabeth McIntire [mailto:elizabeth@...]
Sent: Monday, June 04, 2001 6:41 PM
To: Columbia Heights
Subject: [columbia_heights] Alley closing Hearing
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
--It was the city that had a non-functioning Planning Office for
--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
--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
--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.
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- --- In columbia_heights@y..., "Sueiro, Jose (EOM)" <jose.sueiro@d...>
>denies it) said that rather than more Historic Preservation what we
> Someone in Mt. Pleasant (I say it was Athena Viscusi, but she
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 apretty 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
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
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:
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