Metro Weekly

Center Deadline

LGBT community center given June 18 deadline to vacate 14th Street building

After months of operating The Center, the local LGBT community center, out of 1810 14th St. NW, David Mariner, executive director of the organization, announced today that he’s been given a June 18 deadline to vacate.

”We knew when we came here that there was a possibility that we would have to leave this early,” Mariner says. ”I was hoping we would have a chance to stay here much longer.”

JBG Properties, which purchased the property from Whitman-Walker Clinic in 2008, initially offered the space to The Center at below-market rent. The arrangement, offered with a minimum occupancy of six months, was to last until JBG could find funding to demolish the building in order to build condominiums.

In a May 4 e-mail message to Mariner, JBG’s James T. Nozar wrote the company is planning to begin demolition of the building in September.

”I know you’ve made the buildings a comfortable home over the past five months and regret having to force you to leave so soon,” he wrote. ”Please let us know if we can be of any assistance in searching for a new space or in moving out.”

Since January, The Center has been subletting space at the JBG property to several other organizations: Bet Mishpachah, the Capital Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC, aka the chamber), the DC Agenda/Washington Blade, the DC Community AIDS Network, Helping our Brothers and Sisters, and the Latino GLBT History Project.

While the situation was understood to be temporary, the local community has embraced the venue and The Center has hosted a variety of events there such as support groups, ”bear yoga,” an open house with the Metropolitan Police Department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) and a concert.

”We’ve accomplished so much since we’ve been here that I have to believe there’s a way we can find a location that will work for us,” Mariner says. ”What we were able to do here was show folks that there’s a need for a community center, that it will be used, and that it’s wanted.”

The Center previously leased third-floor office space at 14th and L Streets NW, but had long searched for a street-level venue to encourage drop-in visitors, which The Center enjoyed with the JBG property.

”But what we haven’t been able to do is get support from our local government. That really is the missing piece. No community center that I’m aware of has survived long term without support from their local government.”

Mark Guenther, CAGLCC’s first full-time executive director, took the top spot with another CAGLCC first: office space. Notified of the moving deadline, Guenther lamented that the chamber was planning to move its monthly board meetings to the JBG property.

“We’re going to have to regroup, because it was totally part of our business plan,” he said Tuesday. “It is very disappointing.”