Call for Nominations
2021 Preservation Awards

DCPL Seeks Community Outreach and Grants Manager

Community Outreach and Grants Manager (Full-Time)

ABOUT
The DC Preservation League (DCPL) is Washington, DC’s citywide nonprofit dedicated to the preservation, protection, and enhancement of the historic and built environment of our nation’s capital. Founded in 1971 as Don’t Tear It Down to save the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue, DCPL has worked diligently to ensure that preservation remains an economic force for the city’s neighborhoods and historic downtown.

RESPONSIBILITIES
With guidance from DCPL’s Executive Director, the Community Outreach and Grants Manager coordinates the development and implementation of three main programmatic components: (1) core mission/advocacy (2) community outreach; and (3) the Preservation Initiatives Grant Program.

CORE MISSION/ADVOCACY
To meet the organization’s mission of protecting DC’s historic resources, the Community Outreach and Grants Manager will play an important role in DCPL’s advocacy efforts.

  • Serves as staff liaison for DCPL Landmarks Committee; coordinates with Committee Chair to prepare monthly agendas and report meeting outcomes, prepares and file landmark and historic district nominations, coordinates with the DC Historic Preservation Office on landmark nomination submissions; presents information on landmark nominations to community groups and the Historic Preservation Review Board
  • Serves as staff liaison for DCPL Government Affairs Committee; coordinates with Executive Director and Committee Chair to prepare monthly agendas and report meeting outcomes, prepares online petitions, sends out Advocacy Alert emails, as needed
  • Assists Executive Director with Section 106 Consulting Party responsibilities; provides meeting summaries and prepares comments as needed
  • Prepares testimony for DC Council, DC Historic Preservation Review Board, and other governmental agency hearings on historic preservation cases and policies affecting historic landmarks and districts
  • Raises awareness of issues through social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), newsletter articles, and website posts
  • Manages graduate student fellow from American University during the academic year; directs initiatives related to DC Historic Sites
  • Manages summer interns
  • Other duties may be assigned by the Executive Director to carry out Core Mission activities.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH
Cultivates and maintains productive and positive relationships with citizens, community groups, schools, and governmental agencies to identify needs, assists in planning educational programs, and answer questions about community/neighborhood preservation priorities and activities.

  • Works with Programs Associate to plan and presents educational programs designed to engage citizens in preservation activities and to increase overall community support for preservation as a basic community value
  • Coordinates with Programs Associate to plan regular workshops to share information on preservation tools and incentives
  • Assists in preservation advocacy activities designed to spur the preservation of endangered historic structures and open spaces
  • Appears before neighborhood groups and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions to share information about historic preservation and seek engagement from new communities
  • Assists neighborhood groups with the preparation of DC Landmark nominations and other activities to raise awareness
  • Manages Historic Districts Coalition, an ad hoc group of existing neighborhood preservation organizations. Schedules meetings and provides technical assistance to make them more effective advocates and to increase the level of services they provide to their communities
  • Promotes DCPL’s programs to communities throughout the city and prepares content for monthly e-newsletter and monthly events blast.

PRESERVATION INITIATIVES GRANT PROGRAM
Provides management and oversight for all aspects of grant programs offered by DCPL. Works as part of a team to ensure funding goals are in line with larger DCPL priorities. Facilitates the smooth operation of all grant application processing and manages tracking and reporting for all grant programs.

  • Assists in developing grant applications, guidelines, and reporting forms for new/future funding programs
  • Identifies requirements for grantee reporting and the development of reporting materials that will allow DCPL to track the impact of its funding over time. Compiles this information and determine the best way to highlight this impact for key constituents and the general public
  • Works with applicants to determine eligibility for specific funds and provides pre- and post-decision-making assistance to grant seekers as needed
  • Organizes and manages grant selection committee to identify successful grant applications
  • Works with the DC Historic Preservation Office and other organizations to promote the Program and recruit a diverse selection of eligible applicants for each grant cycle
  • Serves as a primary point of contact for both grant seekers and grantees
  • Monitors all grant program finances and prepares progress reports for Board of Trustees
  • Generates grant contracts and payment requests for funded projects
  • Ensures grantee compliance on funded projects

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Bachelor’s degree required. Master’s degree preferred. Knowledge of the historic preservation field preferred
  • Minimum of two years of experience in program development and implementation, with experience working in a community-based and multicultural setting
  • Minimum of two years of professional level experience including experience managing and coordinating projects. Familiarity with non-profit grant making or similar processes preferred
  • Ability to navigate a wide range of relationships including government leaders, local business owners, and youth, as well as the ability to relate to culturally diverse populations
  • Experience managing budgets, grants, and grant report writing
  • Strong organizational skills and the ability to prioritize, multi-task efficiently, and respond to a high volume of ongoing requests in a timely fashion
  • Ability to make independent decisions within a general decision-making framework
  • Excellent oral, verbal, and written communication skills
  • Ability to adapt and be flexible in a dynamic work environment
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite
  • Familiarity with WordPress, InDesign, and Photoshop desired.

Position is full-time (37.5 Hours/week). Evening and weekend work required.
Salary Range is from $45,000 – $60,000 and is commensurate with experience.

Benefits include 80/20 medical and dental insurance, 403B retirement plan, life insurance, and a flexible work schedule that allows for meeting work plan obligations.

Interested candidates should provide the following:

  • Resume
  • A summary of your community outreach and grant administration experience
  • Contact list with four professional references
  • Salary requirement
  • Any supporting materials you deem appropriate.

Questions regarding the position description and/or application process may be directed to Executive Director Rebecca Miller at rebecca@dcpreservation.org.

The DC Preservation League is an equal opportunity employer that is committed to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Riding Through the Past

The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) provides a popular bus service known as “Metrobus”–the sixth busiest bus agency in the country. Serving over 11,000 stops on 325 routes, Metrobus transports passengers across DC, Virginia, and Maryland.

Many contemporary bus routes have a connection the long tradition of moving both residents and visitors across the region. Some of the routes in operation today are continuation of older bus routes established in the mid-twentieth century, and some of those routes have an even earlier antecedents as streetcar lines.

Among the current 300+ routes, there are a handful that stand out as being especially popular with riders. Whether because of the neighborhoods served or downtown attractions featured, these routes have become standbys for many in the area.

In the 1970s, a fledging historic preservation organization called “Don’t Tear it Down” wanted to highlight the city’s history and its beautiful buildings. They decided to do so by developing a series of tours along popular bus routes. The Take One Tour series took the form of a run of printed brochures distributed directly to riders on buses.

Don’t Tear it Down and the historic preservation movement in DC built up momentum and were able to pass a robust preservation law for the city in 1978 . In the intervening decades, Don’t Tear it Down changed its name to the DC Preservation League, and the number of landmarks added to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites climbed past 700.

In April 2021, we will mark 50 years since the founding of Don’t Tear it Down. To honor this history, we wanted to bring back a new version of the Take One Tour on popular bus routes.

DCPL manages a free resource called “DC Historic Sites”—a website and mobile application that has geolocated information about the city’s landmarked sites and historic districts. Through a series of six new tours on DC Historic Sites, users can explore the history all around them on bus routes throughout the city.

Tours include sites featured on:

If you’re riding the bus, we recommend downloading the mobile application (from the App Store or Google Play) to easily follow along on the tour.

However, given the public health emergency, we recognize that many folks may not be riding their usual routes. Maybe you’ve found yourself even weirdly sentimental for some of your favorite Metrobus lines? If so, you can also explore the tours from your computer browser and click along the route to remind yourself of your favorite buildings and neighborhoods.

Capitol Power Plant Pump House Nominated to the DC Inventory

In November of 2020, the DC Preservation League submitted a landmark nomination for the Capitol Power Plant Pump House, located at First Street and Potomac Avenue SE. This distinctive structure played an essential role in supporting the modernization of the U.S. Capitol building, enabling the Capitol Power Plant to function for over forty years (during the plant’s establishment and considerable expansion).

Sitting on a pier in the Anacostia River, the structure is now owned by the DC Government and leased to a nonprofit known as the Earthworks Conservation Corps. The pump house was built between 1908 and 1910; its period of significance is from 1910 to 1961.

The Capitol Power Plant Pump House was constructed during the same period in which engineering firm Westinghouse, Church, Kerr, Inc. built the Capitol Power Plant, its equipment, and related buildings. This modern idea of a separate plant to provide heat, forced ventilation and electricity for the Capitol and new Library building was necessitated by the planned addition of an office building for the House of Representatives. House offices had suffered from considerable crowding, with the steady increase in members—from 303 in 1859 to 447 in 1901—since the Capitol expansion.

Connected to the northeastern bank of the Anacostia River by a short bridge, the pump house provided water to the power plant through a mile-long network of mains running beneath city streets. The power plant boilers originally used this water to produce steam to generate electricity and heat for the Capitol complex.

The Capitol Power Plant, and by extension the pump house, was praised early in its existence. In his 1914 Annual Report, the Architect of Capitol declared:

Referring to the Capitol power plant, I will state that the construction, operation, and final results have fully justified Congress in its efforts to combine for the Capitol, the two office buildings and the Library of Congress a central source of supply for all heat, light, and power.

The power plant constituted an important achievement in the development of central heating and power (and later air conditioning) in the District, a relatively new technology which was in time applied to many other campuses within the city. In 1950-51, with Capitol demand for electricity rising, the Superintendent arranged to procure power from the local utility, PEPCO, and so discontinued production at the Capitol Power Plant.

The pump house is a virtually unique example in Washington of a small water in-take facility and still shows its original use both inside and outside. For these reasons, the Capitol Power Plant Pump House qualifies for designation under DC Inventory Criterion B (History) and similar National Register Criterion A.

Read the full nomination here. 

Request for Proposals:
Women’s Suffrage Movement in Washington, DC

Marquis de Lafayette Suffragette Demonstration, 1918, Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.

The fight for women’s equality has roots all across America, but many of its most important moments have taken place in Washington, DC. In addition to local activists who fought not only for women’s suffrage but for suffrage for all DC residents, women came from all over the country to DC to campaign for their rights. National organizations such as the National American Woman Suffrage Association and the National Woman’s Party, and later organizations like the National Council for Negro Women, have worked out of DC while lobbying the federal government for their rights and gathering resources and supporters.

Nine African-American women posed, standing, full length, with Nannie Burroughs holding banner reading, “Banner State Woman’s National Baptist Convention” 1905-1918, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.

Many sites throughout the city attest to this long, rich history of activism. Landmarks such as the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument and the homes of suffragists Mary Church Terrell and Charlotte Forten Grimké offer a look into some of the key figures who promoted women’s suffrage and equal rights in DC. However, the suffragist sites listed in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register are limited in number and do not tell the full story of how women’s suffrage advocates in Washington, DC came to win their fight for political representation.

There is no doubt that other historic sites throughout DC can help flesh out the complex story of the campaign for women’s equality— including the untold stories of many underrepresented female activists.  The development of a context study will identify critical themes in the movement within the District of Columbia; organize a timeline of events; name critical players; and establish a preliminary list of places that define this time in history.  Once the study is complete, a framework is set for nominating sites to the DC Inventory and National Register—a significant step towards honoring the contributions of generations of women throughout American history.

DCPL seeks proposals from qualified consultants interested in undertaking research to identify and document historic resources associated with the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Washington, DC.  The selected Consultant will produce a context study to thematically address the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Washington, DC from 1848-1973 and present the study to the public and to the DC Historic Preservation Review Board.

Deadline for submission: January 31, 2021

Click here for a full description of the project and deliverables. 

 

Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse Nominated to DC Inventory of Historic Sites

On Thursday, December 17, 2020, the DC Historic Preservation Review Board is scheduled to consider the landmark nomination submitted by DCPL for Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse. The nomination highlights the important social history of this venue as a meeting place for the LGBTQ community in DC during the mid- to late-twentieth century.

The nomination is unusual; it argues for what is known as a non-contiguous landmark designation. Annie’s has occupied two sites: it operated out of 1519 Seventeenth Street NW from 1948 until 1985, at which time it moved to 1609-1611 Seventeenth Street NW.

1519 Seventeenth Street is a two-story Italianate building (constructed in 1878) now operating as JR’s Bar. 1609-1611 Seventeenth Street consists of two interconnected commercial buildings in the Italianate style (1609, constructed in 1904) and the Tudor Revival Style (1611, constructed in 1926).

When George Katinas leased the property at 1519 Seventeenth Street NW in 1948, he changed its name from the Paramount Café to the Paramount Steakhouse. George’s younger sister, Anne (Annie) Katinas Kaylor, worked at the restaurant and became a favorite of the patrons. George added Annie’s name to the restaurant c. 1962 and it officially became “Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse.”

Anne (Annie) Katinas Kaylor in 1985

Under the ownership and operational leadership of the Katinas family, the restaurant gained a reputation as a friendly environment, accepting of individuals from all walks of life. As early as the 1950s, the restaurant became known as a local safe haven for the LGBTQ community. Annie herself once saw two gay men holding hands under a table in the restaurant and encouraged the couple to hold hands above the table. At Annie’s, the LGBTQ community could freely engage in getting to know each other at a time when society at large–and the federal government–rejected alternative lifestyles and forced many individuals to hide their sexual preferences. Before the widespread establishment of gay bars and nightclubs in the 1970s, restaurants like Annie’s were critical for DC’s LGBTQ community to meet and socially interact.

DC became an LGBTQ regional epicenter in the early twentieth century, during the post-Civil War Great Migration. The District’s growing community was not openly welcomed; rather, it was forced to develop largely in secret. By the mid-twentieth century, the LGBTQ community increasingly settled in specific areas of the city, and one of these areas was Dupont Circle. As the nation’s capital, DC was central to the LGBTQ civil rights campaign. Solidarity remained important within this increasingly politicized context, and it was critical for LGBTQ individuals to find safe havens where they could gather and socialize.

Paramount Steakhouse at 1519 Seventeenth Street NW (date unknown)

Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse built its ties to the LGBTQ community in its original location at 1519 Seventeenth Street and maintained those ties when it moved to its current location at 1609-1611 Seventeenth Street. The High Heel Race, a popular Dupont circle event, began in 1986 as a sprint between JR’s Bar (at 1519 Seventeenth Street) and Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse (at 1609-1611 Seventeenth Street). The annual event still concludes at Annie’s. Since 2010, when gay marriage became legal in DC, Annie’s has been the site of numerous weddings for same-sex couples. Although Annie Katinas Kaylor passed away in 2013 and George Katinas in 2014, the restaurant is still owned and operated by the Katinas family and continues be a significant local LGBTQ site.

Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse meets DC Inventory Criterion A for its association with events that contributed significantly to the heritage and culture of DC, and DC Inventory Criterion B for its association with social movements and groups that contributed significantly to the heritage and culture of DC.

If designated, Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse will join the Slowe-Burrill House, the Dr. Franklin E. Kameny House, and the Furies Collective in the DC Inventory of Historic Sites for its association with the LGBTQ history in the District of Columbia.

Click here to read the complete nomination, written by EHT Traceries.

Update: the Historic Preservation Review Board voted unanimously in support of the designation!

DC Preservation League Testimony Re: Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020

Testimony to the Committee on the Whole
B23-0736 – Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020
Friday, November 13, 2020

Good afternoon, Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole. My name is Rebecca Miller, Executive Director of the DC Preservation League (DCPL), Washington’s citywide nonprofit that for the past 49 years has been dedicated to advocating for the preservation and protection of the historic and built environment of our nation’s capital. I am pleased to be here today and thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on the Comprehensive Plan Amendment Act of 2020.

To start, DCPL would like to align itself with the comments put forward by the Committee of 100 on the Federal City which has studied these amendments extensively and will be submitting more extensive comments for the record. We also agree with the statements yesterday by the Citizen’s Association of Georgetown and the Cleveland Park Historical Society.

DC’s historic preservation law is one of the strongest and most successful ordinances of its kind in the country. We are thus disheartened by continuing efforts to undermine this law by the Office of Planning, questionable decisions by the Mayor’s Agent and some housing activists who blame preservation for the lack of affordable housing in DC. I would remind the Council and the public listening that, according to data provided by the DC Economic Partnership numbers for 2016-2018, 18% of new affordable housing units were developed within historic districts or within projects that had landmark properties. With approximately 20% of the buildings in the District designated, preservation is thus pulling its weight – and organization’s like DCPL and other preservationists are prepared to continue to work with the city to help do more with regards to affordability, economic vitality and sustainability. The city needs to promote affordable housing much more actively in areas where extensive new development is taking place without providing affordable housing for the families and other long-term residents who are being displaced by this new construction.

We have also heard testimony that the city needs to focus more on sustainability and climate change. DCPL couldn’t agree more. In the United States, 43% of carbon emissions and 39% of total energy use is attributed to the construction and operation of buildings. The impact of buildings is even more significant when the greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing building materials is taken into consideration. As a key element in sustainable development, the preservation, reuse and “greening” of existing, and historic buildings present excellent opportunities to reduce our city’s carbon emissions and energy consumption, thus is an important tool in the city’s efforts to combat climate change.

According to the Executive Summary (at page 5):  “phrases like ‘protect neighborhood character,’ which has been documented to have been used to perpetuate racial exclusion and segregation, has been replaced with ‘respect neighborhood character’ to reframe this important objective using an inclusive tone. However, we retained phrases like ‘protect historic resources’ because that remains consistent with our current historic preservation policy.” Yet in more than a dozen areas of the document, “protect” has been replaced with “respect” with regards to historic resources, contrary to the OP’s own explanation of its use of terminology.

This language change is most concerning to DCPL. The Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978 is quite specific in stating that the “protection, enhancement and perpetuation of properties of historical, cultural and aesthetic merit are in the interests of the health, prosperity and welfare of the people of the District of Columbia.” It is a stated purpose of the law to “protect” properties of historic merit. Hence that word – not the more general “respect” or others that might be substituted – must continue to be used with respect to properties designated under the 1978 law. With more than 40 years of experience with the preservation law, its terminology has generally accepted meaning and the Comp Plan should not attempt to change it.

In a similar vein, I would note that the word “protect” is replaced elsewhere with “preserve” but without defining that term either. Has this word been tested with the public – is it inclusive? Is it preserving the building, the viewshed, the character? For historic properties, we should stick with the language of the 1978 law.

Overall, sorry to say but I will say it, this document has turned into a worthless word soup — the “shall’s” have become “should’s” and other directive words are now merely suggestive ones. What lasting value or value is supposed to be conveyed by the policies to be approved by the Council? Words matter and these small language changes throughout the proposed amendments strip the document of meaning.

DCPL feels strongly that any changes to the Comp Plan need to be consistent and meaningful. The Office of Planning has missed the mark. The City, while thriving in some areas, has planned itself into a corner from an equitable and inclusivity perspective. Nearly two decades of greenlighting projects to attract young professionals at certain income levels has resulted in a glut of overpriced glass rental boxes with a high vacancy rate, and a shortage of affordable units. People want to live in the District. They want livable, walkable, affordable communities. This document falls far short of its stated goals. It is word heavy but lacking real substance and direction for future development and neighborhood planning.

DCPL encourages the Council to reject this bill as currently written and we thank you for the opportunity to present our comments.

3020 University Terrace NW: The Bazelon-McGovern House

In collaboration with owner Gordon Kit, DCPL has filed a landmark nomination for the property at 3020 University Terrace NW. This residence was previously owned by David Bazelon, Chief Justice of the DC Court of Appeals, as well as Senator (and Presidential candidate) George McGovern.

3020 University Terrace is a two-story wood-frame and stucco house, designed in a mid-century modern style, with a distinctive overlay of Japanese stylistic elements. Japanese-inspired plantings and garden elements surround the house on all sides.

This residence is significant for its association with David Bazelon, Chief Justice of the DC Court of Appeals, who, with his wife Miriam Bazelon, constructed it as their family home in 1957. Judge Bazelon’s career included numerous significant rulings over the course of decades. His most famous decision redefined concepts of mental illness under criminal law. At his death in 1993, the New York Times stated that Judge Bazelon’s court was the most influential judicial body in the United States besides the Supreme Court.

3020 University Terrace is also significant for its association with Senator George McGovern, who lived in the house from 1969 until 1980. At the time he and his wife Eleanor purchased the house, Senator McGovern, a populist from South Dakota, was establishing himself as a strong opponent of the Vietnam War and a leading liberal voice in the Democratic party. During the spring of 1972, he became the front-running candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, which he won at the August convention.

During his quest for the nomination and the presidential election, the house was the scene of many political events and key meetings and was frequently pictured in the media. After a campaign marked by the national division and turmoil of the times, which included the Watergate break-in, McGovern was defeated by incumbent president Richard M. Nixon. He remained a leading voice in the Democratic Party and an influential senator before losing his seat in the 1980 Ronald Reagan-led Republican landslide.

Beyond its association with these famous individuals, the residence is also significant because it embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, style, and method of construction. Designed by Jean-Pierre Trouchaud–whose eight highly individual houses constructed between 1949 and 1958 helped define the Palisades as a leading enclave of modernist residential design–the house is a synthesis of modernist and traditional Japanese architecture.

While this fusion of elements appears unique within the District, it places the house at the conflux of national and international cultural and architectural trends. These include the growing influence of Japanese design in postwar America, increasing recognition of the synergy between traditional Japanese architecture’s emphasis on functionality and form and modernism, and modernism’s evolution into a broader and richer movement based upon its insistence on truth in materials, functional analysis, and rationalism–rather than strict adherence to the International Style’s catalog of forms and materials.

The house’s construction illustrates the growing openness of Washington residential design to more global and non-western influences. It represents the growing sophistication and maturity of modernism in Washington.

UPDATE: On February 25, 2021, the Historic Preservation Review Board voted to add the Bazelon-McGovern House to the DC Inventory of Historic Sites!

DC Preservation League Awarded National Park Service Grant to Study the Black Power Movement

The DC Preservation League is pleased to announce that it has received a $50,000 grant from the African American Civil Rights Program, as administered by the National Park Service (NPS), Department of the Interior, to fund creation of a study entitled Black Power in 20th Century Washington, DC: A Context Study.

“This study is the first of its kind and by exploring the DC Black Power Movement, it will shed light on this critical time in the city’s history—beyond events like the Million Man March and already-identified leaders, like Malcom X and Marion Barry, who was the first black power activist elected as DC Mayor. DC’s Black Power Movement was incredibly well-organized and it involved a variety of local and national activists, alike,” DCPL’s Executive Director Rebecca Miller said.

The project will catalyze nominations to both the DC Inventory of Historic Sites and the National Register of Historic Places. DCPL will also devise an outreach plan to educate the community on the research findings and significant associated properties.

“The activists involved in the Black Power Movement built up the community by adding schools, centers for art and music, and even oversight boards for the local police departments; they sparked important discussions about the city’s ongoing redevelopment; and they were catalysts for establishing DC’s first democratically-elected local government in nearly a century.  These details and stories are largely unknown,” Ms. Miller said.  “It’s long past time to tell them.”

Any questions about this grant should be addressed to DCPL Director of Development, Kelli Knox: kelli@dcpreservation.org.

** Photo Credit: New York Public Library Black Power Exhibition Guide

Former Site of Historic Buildings to be New Home of DCHD…

The following text is based on testimony given by DCPL Executive Director Rebecca Miller at the July 2020 meeting of the Historic Preservation Review Board. 

Fragile from years of demolition by neglect and increasing development pressures, beginning in 1996 DCPL placed the Anacostia Historic District on its list of Most Endangered Places. The buildings at 1909-1913 Martin Luther King Jr., Avenue were contributing elements in the historic district-that is until the city allowed them to collapse in a windstorm in 2015.

The former commercial buildings that stood on land that is now known as the Anacostia Gateway Project were the victims of failure on the part of four mayoral admirations, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the Office of Planning and most egregiously, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). DHCD took control of these buildings in the mid-1990s. Although not in ideal condition when placed in DHCD’s portfolio, the buildings were left vacant and abandoned for years by the department, a clear case of the District Government eluding its own laws with regard to code violations and demolition by neglect. The apparent disregard by DHCD was evidenced by the former buildings being left open to the elements and to vagrants. The almost certain consequence of this negligence was a fire that gutted and destroyed the rear of the buildings and their interiors in August 2005.

In 2015, the buildings fell over in a windstorm. Yes, a windstorm. Despite the DC Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act being explicit in the treatment of landmarks or contributing buildings that are illegally demolished, no action was taken to require the District Government to rebuild the structures. I’ll note that DCPL doesn’t have standing under the law in this matter, so we were unable to pursue this. All the while, other buildings in the city owned by private property owners have been subject to the rebuilding requirement.  The District of Columbia failed to enforce its own laws. A stellar example to the public once again.

In what appears to be an act of self-dealing, DHCD, the very agency that perpetrated the loss of the historic buildings is now slated to be the anchor tenant of the new MLK Gateway development. The DC Council has approved DHCD’s lease and the development team presented two concepts to the Historic Preservation Review Board in July. The proposals call for a larger five-story (note the original buildings were only 2 stories) building. DCHD’s lease also is driving the timeline for this development – requiring permitting by February 2021. With City actions like this – how are developers across the District, both large and small, supposed to take the law seriously. The fact is, they have no reason to do so.

Lack of action followed by a “shrug of the shoulders” is not how an effective building program should work in the District of Columbia. It has been shown time and again that commercial revitalization is critical to the economic vitality of our neighborhoods. DCPL has worked diligently with developers across the city to ensure that historic preservation interests are respected within projects. As everyone in this room has seen, rehabilitation of Washington’s small buildings can be a useful tool in revitalizing urban neighborhoods and in engendering community pride. We fully believe that the successes in other parts of the city can very much take place in Anacostia.

DCPL will continue to work with our partners in Historic Anacostia and across the city to ensure that buildings important to neighborhoods remain or return to productive use.