Featured

VICTORY! Judge stops razing of Plaza!

Today’s win is official! Here is the DC Superior Court Judge Todd Edelman’s Judgment transcript (37 pages PDF) and one-page Preliminary Injunction Order received from our talented DC pro bono trial attorney Paul Zukerberg.  Anyone can show this to anyone with a bullldozer on our Plaza in Adams Morgan! 🙂  This PI means it will not be razed while the court reviews our case in  full to establish the public easement going forward, which the judge ordered will be on an accelerated timeframe through this fall—we’ll get to hear the real story from all those who were party to the Plaza’s creation & related experts!

Looks like we’ll have a clear decision, which could potentially establish the easement in perpetuity by spring!  For this next phase of the trial,  Paul has let us know that realistically costs for expert witnesses, visual exhibits, court clerk, and video deposition costs could run to $10K.

So so many people have given of their time, care, expertise, resources, official capacity, influence, fresh produce, and funds! THANK YOU ALL!!

As of now, we at AdMo4RD have $54.00 in the bank as most all funds raised so far were spent on filing fees, land title search, exhibits, and witness travel—shared equally with Co-Plaintiff Kalorama Citizens Association. If you’re in a position to give to help cover legal costs, click here.

ALSO:
On the evening of Wednesday, August 23 from 7 to 9pm, we held an open service meeting on the Plaza & had 15 people come out and commit to being of service in the coming weeks and months.

Advertisements

See you in court SunTrust and Hoffman!

FeaturedSee you in court SunTrust and Hoffman!

We’ve officially joined forces with the Kalorama Citizens Association and pro bono attorney Paul Zukerberg, with resources generously donated from you all, to file suit against SunTrust, PN Hoffman and Potomac Partners.

Click here for our official press release.

Here the official documents filed with the court:

Preliminary Injunction motion & PI exhibits

Complaint

If you support SunTrust & PN Hoffman being required to come to the table through this lawsuit, click here to donate—we’ve covered our filing fees so far, but the big expenses are ahead.  Please give as generously as your budget allows!

Hoffman filed for raze permits. It’s go time!

FeaturedHoffman filed for raze permits. It’s go time!

Despite our many successes, the Plaza now hangs in the balance. We’re going to court soon to fight for it & we need AdMo4RD Save Our Plaza members’ help:

  • send us any feedback you’ve got on the case in writing this week

  • give as generously as your budget reasonably allows to support the case

  • contact us to offer help on the case and the campaign

And the market is in full swing again this Saturday, June 3—we’ll be meeting at the Plaza at noon to help welcome the farmers back and show our support!  
Click for the full update…  [links to Google doc of email sent to our list]

Featured

Community Strongly Opposes PN Hoffman Condo Project

Concerns Raised About Public Easement on Plaza 

Adams Morgan, DC, Wednesday, September 21, 2016 – A throng of PN Hoffman’s brightest talents brought their latest designs to Adams Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners and residents at a packed public meeting at Mary’s Center.  Of the more than thirty people in attendance, the reaction was swift and almost entirely in opposition to the project, with only two people speaking in support of the latest design iteration, Online here –   http://tinyurl.com/suntrust-plaza-design-sep-2016

“Don’t destroy our Plaza,” said 40+ year Adams Morgan resident Mary Jane Owen. “The plaza honors one of the community’s victories against racism, and it can be it refurbished.” Owen references the dedication of the plaza in atonement for bank redlining back in the 1970’s. “Our built environments and memorials are reminders of our historically important neighborhood struggle against discrimination.”

After questioning, PN Hoffman representatives admitted they did not own the site yet. Suntrust Bank has not sent representatives to any public meetings yet.

Further, the PN Hoffman team proclaimed the plaza to be “private property” and that deed searches have not demonstrated any known ownership issues. In stark contrast stood Vikram Surya Chiruvolu who said, “We have discovered several critical documents that show the Suntrust site is encumbered with a public easement [PDF, links to AdMo4RD attorney Paul Zukerberg’s preliminary legal opinion]” and that his group, Adams Morgan for Reasonable Development, “will pursue the full measure of the law to protect this public plaza space.”

“By building right up to or nearly to the bank property line, the proposed out-of-scale apartment will act like a tall wall blocking the wonderful light and air on 18th Street,” said Monica Bose, Adams Morgan artist.  “The adverse impacts of a project this massive in this neighborhood context is unacceptable given how central this site is to Adams Morgan.”

Further, the PN Hoffman team failed to bring any dimensional measurements of the area of plaza that may remain after dropping their condo project on the site. Residents believe the latest design leaves about 300 square feet of the existing 2,500+ square foot public plaza space.

“How do you come to a long-anticipated public meeting about this critical project without measurements of the most controversial aspect of the project — the elimination of the plaza,” said Chris Otten, 2016 ANC Candidate.

Some residents claimed that PN Hoffman’s latest design plan renderings depict the existing Adams Morgan commercial strip along the west side of 18th Street  (Julias Empanadas, inter-alia) as bigger and taller then what they really are. But PN Hoffman representatives fired back and proclaimed that people like Denis James, president of the Kalorama Citizens Association (KCA) were purposefully “manipulating” their photos to hurt their project.  James scoffed at the notion, defiantly holding up his cellphone and challenged PN Hoffman walk to the site and take photos with him.  They  declined reticently.

In the end, the ANC Committee voted in the majority to not support the latest PN Hoffman designs for the Suntrust site.

On October 5, 2016, the ANC as a whole will give one final review before PN Hoffman intends to seek approval by the DC Historic Preservation Review Board in late October.

###

Trove of Historical Records

FeaturedTrove of Historical Records

Bank’s Response to Community Concerns Included Providing a Public Plaza

The DC Historical Preservation Review Board meeting was  held at 930am Thursday June 23, 2016 at 441 4th Street NW, Room 220 South.  We won a VICTORY—for now!  The HPRB declined to approve the plans as presented at the June 23 hearing giving us more time.

Based on the verbal accounts of folks who’ve been selling at the Adams Morgan Saturday morning farmers market for decades, we’ve been saying that there was a major community struggle with the bank at 1800 Columbia Rd NW prior to the building even being built.   New records that have come forth also describe how this was a historic victory that marks one of the first known acts of reparation for racial discrimination in which a bank that engaged in redlining altered its practice and returned wealth to the community.  Clear historical records are coming forth, and more are yet to come. Here is the story they reveal so far.

Fighting Redlining Adams Morgan

After Perpetual Federal Savings & Loan bought the site at 1800 Columbia Rd NW in 1976, there was an extended fight between the Adams Morgan Organization and the bank about putting a branch at that location. The fight centered on the then-common banking practice of redlining, or racially segregating, neighborhoods using selective home lending, which Perpetual, along with many other DC area banks, had engaged in since the 1930s.

This struggle is described at length in this 200-page Masters thesis by James Lloyd entitled Community Development, Research, and Reinvestment: The Struggle against Redlining in Washington, DC, 1970-1995.  This thesis became two journal articles, one in the Journal of Progress in Public Planning, and the other in the Journal of Urban History.   We directly contacted Mr. Lloyd, and he also provided this transcript of his 2011 oral history with Councilman Frank Smith, who was head of the Adams Morgan Organization, which eventually became the Adams Morgan ANC and was a signatory to the settlement about the lending practices and construction of the plaza.  In the transcript, Smith describes how he and other Adams Morgan Organization members went to Atlanta to testify before the Federal Home Loan Bank Board regarding the branch charter.  At minute 20:00, he states about his testimony there and the settlement regarding the plaza:

We said, “well, we’ve got affidavits from people who have been long term members who [are] creditworthy enough for them to be taking their money and holding their large accounts in there, but they’re not creditworthy enough for them to lend money to them.” So we told them that. At the end they did issue them a charter, but the charter required them to do certain things at that site. It required them to – one of our requests was to have a bilingual staff. This was a bilingual community – that they have a bilingual staff there at the bank and that they provide – this site was being used as a public meeting place, as a community garden, not a garden, but a place where they were selling products and they had to allow that to continue. So when you look at that site now it looks a little bit like an amphitheater. That’s because it was supposed to have a community choir go in there every year for Christmastime and sing. We never did that even up to now, but it’s still a good idea and maybe we’ll have it one day. But beside this, they do have the community produce out there …

Related to this, we’ve turned up the following underlying historical documents from 1976-1979 about the Plaza site at 1800 Columbia Rd NW, all from the Washington Post.  These are in chronological order with the oldest first:

And this PDF was given to us directly by former Councilman Frank Smith, from his personal records, and it includes one of the legal agreements between Perpetual Federal. However, the key item of note is described in the July 28 1977 Washington Post article by Martha Hamilton describing the “good neighbor” agreement which the Perpetual put in place with the Adams Morgan Organization which was a forerunner to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, in order for its agreement to allow the building of the branch.

This “good neighbor” agreement governing the plaza has yet to surface, and the Historical Preservation Review Board has not yet seen it or any of the information on this page. Unfortunately, their recent staff report on the site states “demolition of the building and plaza do not raise preservation concerns”.  If you know of anyone who may have more information on this good neighbor agreement, please let us know at AdMo4RD@gmail.com.

Perpetual Federal Savings & Loan was purchased by Crestar in 1992. The city property records still indicate a division of Crestar is the legal owner of the building.  SunTrust then purchased Crestar in 1998, and rebranded the branch, but never officially transferred ownership.

Here (PDF, 230MB) is about 250 pages of additional documents surfaced in our research.

 

And here is a page about the prior history of the site.

DC Historic Preservation Board Asks PN Hoffman to Come Back

Press Release: Adams Morgan for Reasonable Development, 202 670 2366 admo4rd@gmail.com

DC Historic Preservation Board Asks PN Hoffman to Come Back With Design Changes to Suntrust Plaza Project
Plaza Advocates Immediately File Freedom of Information Request

Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C. – Last Thursday, October 27, 2016, the DC Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) had mixed opinions about Monty Hoffman’s proposal to build on the SunTrust Plaza, replacing the open public space with a 70+ foot tall condo project. Some HPRB Commissioners asked that it come back for further review, while others were satisfied and supported Anne Brockett’s Historic Preservation Office report seeking approval of the project.

Video here ( http://ec4.cc/jf6333467 – At 3hours 37minutes you will see the resolution that was actually passed: HPRB supports the project given that design changes requested are implemented, and that unless the community has concerns after the revisions it will be coming back on the Consent calendar.)

At the prior HPRB hearing in June 2016, HPRB Commissioners made it plain that if the community were to find any information as to the public control of the Suntrust Plaza then to bring this to their attention for the October hearing.

In response to HPRB, the community submitted:

But at the October 27 hearing, the Chair of HPRB, Gretchen Pfaehler, cast aside HPRB’s prior position of interest in the public control of the plaza and said that the easement is “not in the purview” of preservation officials and would not play a role their decision.

“I was very disappointed to see HPRB dismiss without consideration the issue of an easement on our plaza,” stated Vikram Surya Chiruvolu, key organizer with Adams Morgan for Reasonable Development. “An HPRB firmly on the side of its historic preservation duty to the community would have tabled considering the PN Hoffman plan until the historic public easement issue was properly resolved.”

“It doesn’t help to have a Historic Preservation Office report that ignored the history of our plaza and the overwhelming opposition to its destruction,” said Chris Otten with the #SaveOurPlaza Alliance. “Further, the Hoffman project sets the stage for dismantling the prevailing character and heights of both Adams Morgan historic districts.”

The day after the hearing, Chris Otten filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requesting emails and other documents shared between PN Hoffman and Historic Preservation Office staff and HPRB Commissioners. “We want to explore possible collusion between preservation officials and a highly-connected developer who appears to have been politically awarded this arbitrary project approval,” said Otten, who is also running as a candidate for the Adams Morgan ANC.

At the end of the October 27 hearing, HPRB Commissioners did not approve the HPO report, but asked that PN Hoffman come back for further review of the requested basic design changes.

The project is anticipated to be back before the HPRB this month or early December.

###

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

History Prior to the Plaza

The Knickerbocker & Ambassador Theaters

The site was originally the home of the beautiful Knickerbocker Theater, designed by local architect Reginald Geare in 1915 and owned by DC theatre operator Henry Crandall , who also later built the Tivoli Theater which still stands in Columbia Heights.  On January 28, 1922, the night after the worst snowstorm recorded in DC to that point which deposited over two feet of snow on the region, the Knickerbocker opened for business. Tragically, during the movie intermission, under the weight of so much snow the badly constructed roof collapsed, “crushing 98 [to death], and severely injuring 133 more” according to a Washington Post article which said it was the worst DC disaster in 50 years.  Among the dead was medical doctor and Pennsylvania Congressman Andrew Jackson Barchfeld. Local station WETA aired the following silent footage of the aftermath of the disaster in 1990.

The 1922 blizzard became known thereafter as the Knickerbocker Storm.  Architect Geare killed himself in 1927 and Owner Crandall did likewise in 1937.

A year after the tragedy, in 1923, the facade of the theater was salvaged and rebuilt into the Ambassador Theatre, which remained open until 1968.  Interestingly, in its final year, the theatre was rented by a trio of rock and roll promoters calling themselves the Psychedlic Power & Light Company, and they hosted a number of well known rock and roll acts including Jimi Hendrix for five nights in August of 1967.  Here is a photo of the concert poster.

Jimi_Hendrix_Ambassador_Theatre_poster

After the Ambassador closed, it was purchased by local investors JB and Maurice Shapiro, according to this May 1976 Washington Post article, which also details how they then sold the site to Citadel Corporation in 1974, which tried and failed under heavy community opposition to put a BP or Shell gas station on ths site, and then sold it to Perpetual Federal Savings for $350,000.  We have tried to locate any building or demolition permits for both the Knickerbocker and Ambassador Theatres, and neither are in the city’s Washingtoniana archive.