Center Makes a Move

LGBT community center to occupy two WWC buildings next month

The Center, the area’s LGBT community center, is about to trade its third-floor perch above 14th and L Streets NW for a new home at street level. 

David Mariner, executive director of The Center, announced this morning, Dec. 14, that the organization will soon move into two adjacent buildings previously owned by Whitman-Walker Clinic, and sold to JBG Properties in 2008. Under WWC, one building housed the Austin Center, one of which housed the Austin Center, an HIV day-treatment center, and the other the Lesbian Services Program.

“I think that having a location that’s visible, that’s street accessible and larger, is going to really open up the possibilities for The Center, and the perception of The Center,” Mariner says.

The Center has been operating out of third-story office space at 1111 14th St. NW since 2005.

“Our location is okay right now, but this new location is 10 times better. People can walk in from off the street, and people can be walking down the street and see that there’s an LGBT presence in the community.”

The buildings set to house The Center beginning Jan. 1 sit at the intersection of 14th and S Streets NW. 

The combined space of the buildings — approximately 6,000 square feet — is twice the size of The Center’s current space. Currently, The Center sublets some of that space to the local chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (Metro D.C. PFLAG) and Brother Help Thyself (BHT). According to Mariner, Metro D.C. PFLAG will move into Whitman-Walker Clinic’s Elizabeth Taylor Center at 1701 14th St. NW, and BHT will move to the Dignity Washington Center, at 721 8th St. SE, home to the LGBT Catholic group, Dignity USA.

While Mariner declined to provide the financial details of the move, he says the overhead costs associated with the new location are “significantly less” than what the organization currently pays.

“But I don’t think that’s the only reason we’re moving,” Mariner adds. “It’s also just a much better location.”

With the added space, The Center is currently negotiating with other LGBT groups looking to share the new home. Mariner declined to name those groups until negations are completed.

Though the move will give The Center a long-sought street-level presence, it will be temporary. JBG Properties will still be developing the properties at some point, leaving The Center to continue the hunt for a permanent home.

“It could be six months and it could be six years,” Mariner says of how long The Center may be able to occupy its new home before redevelopment. “We don’t know exactly how long it’s going to be, but it’s such a great location we thought why don’t we see if we can work something out?”

WWC Executive Director Don Blanchon, said in an attendant press release that he is pleased with the move.

“With The Center moving in at 14th and S Streets and Metro D.C. PFLAG moving into the Clinic in January 2010, the LGBT community will have a wide array of services conveniently located within two blocks.”

For more information about The Center, call 202-682-2245 or visit thedccenter.org

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