DC Center Gets Reeves Center Home

Mayor Gray's Tuesday evening announcement includes naming Sterling Washington new head of GLBT Affairs

Home, at last.

That’s the sentiment of The DC Center’s director, David Mariner, after the announcement Tuesday night by Mayor Vincent Gray (D) that the LGBT community center will be relocating to the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center at the corner of 14th and U Streets NW.

In a 6 p.m. press conference at the Reeves Center, Gray announced that the community center – which had submitted a bid for Reeves Center space that was rejected in June – has now been selected to occupy space in the District-owned building for up to 15 years.

The business that originally won the bid for the space was not named, though a government spokesman confirmed in June that it was a restaurant. When the restaurant decided not to move forward with its plans, The DC Center was able to resubmit its bid to the city’s Department of General Services (DGS), which oversees the maintenance and leasing of government properties.

”After what we would regard as a fair, transparent, competitive process, and after all the hand-wringing that we’ve been through now for a couple of years, maybe even longer … we now are at the day where there will be a permanent home for the DC Center,” Gray told the crowd assembled for his news conference.

The DC Center, which first leased space in 2005 in an office building at 14th and L Streets NW, has bounced between three locations since, most recently at 1318 U St. NW, a block from the Reeves Center.

”It’s just an enormous sigh of relief, to think that I’m in the District of Columbia, which cares so much about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning communities to say, ‘We want you at the Reeves Center at 14th and U. And we want you there for 15 years, and we want you there for a reasonable rent, and we want you to be secure,” said Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who is gay and whose ward is home to the Reeves Center.

In specifically singling out Mariner, Graham said, ”You have persevered. There were some down moments, I’d say. But to land on your feet, as you have today, with the assistance of your very able group of volunteers and board, is a significant achievement.”

Mariner confirmed that the financial offer initially submitted by The DC Center in April did not change when it was resubmitted in October. In that proposal, the center offered to pay a starting base of rent of $4,000 per month, with an annual increase of 2.7 percent, for a 15-year lease. The DC Center also offered $30,000 of its own money to make renovations to the space.

The ground-floor, sidewalk space that will house The DC Center and other partner organizations, such as the Latino GLBT History Project and Capital Pride, is about twice the size of The DC Center’s current location.

”This is a major step forward in improving the lives of LGBT residents of the District of Columbia through a unique partnership between the community and our local government,” Michael Sessa, president of The DC Center board of directors, said in a statement.

Mariner said that, moving forward, The DC Center would enter negotiations with DGS to discuss renovations and determine a move-in date, sometime in 2013. He added that The DC Center’s current lease was flexible in terms of setting a move-out date, but said the organization would have to renovate the Reeves Center space before finalizing relocation plans.

”This is a wonderful opportunity,” Mariner added. ”I am incredibly appreciative of everyone who contributed to this effort, including our relocation committee.”

Alongside the announcement of The DC Center lease, Gray also took the time to announce Sterling Washington as the new head of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs. Washington replaces Jeffrey Richardson, who recently became the head of Serve DC, the District’s office of volunteerism.

In a short acceptance speech, Washington said he was ”honored and humbled” to be working for the Gray administration, listing the various projects that were undertaken under his predecessor and promising to continue the office’s ”stellar record of accomplishment.”

”My priorities are the mayor’s priorities,” Washington told Metro Weekly. ”I’m lucky to be working for a mayor who had a game plan, who had a very clear vision of what he wanted the Office of GLBT Affairs to look like, and what his LGBT priorities are. And so we fit in very well with the ‘One City’ action plan and the mayor’s priorities.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com