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!

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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]

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.

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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.

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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.

Update: July 9th SOPA Gathering

Update: July 9th SOPA Gathering

We wanted to update you about our SaveOurPlaza gathering on Saturday, July 9, 2016.

Our gathering brought out more than 35 people from the community, including:

Vikram Chiruvolu Surya, with Adams Morgan for Reasonable Development, led the discussion on the history of our Adams Morgan plaza at Suntrust Bank. It was a fact-filled and fun exploration about the amazing history of this location, at the gateway of historic Adams Morgan.   This is the same history that DC’s Historic Preservation Office (Anne Brockett) called ‘insignificant.’ https://saveourplaza.wordpress.com/2016/06/18/plaza-history/

There were so many old-school heads at our forum who chimed in with their memories of what happened back in the 1970’s in the fight to first keep BP’s gas station from taking this important corner, to the eventual victory against the racist redlining of Adams Morgan residents and businesses by Perpetual bank who ultimately built the open plaza and bank building we see and use to this day.

Frank Smith, former Ward One Councilmember, and the Adams Morgan Organization (AMO) both were mentioned by many people as reflecting key leadership in the fight to ensure Perpetual Bank gave up concessions in lieu of the opportunist and classist lending practices that hurt Adams Morgan families and small businesses.

We discussed the idea of the community, with the help of the city in purchasing the land and determining the complete future of this site. But bottom-line, we all agreed that the public plaza from the face of the current bank building to the property lines in all directions shall remain under public control, as it has for 40+ years, here on out!

The question is how do we get there?!?
http://www.facebook.com/admo4rd

Pointedly, many folks have sent in letters asking our Councilmember, Brianne Nadeau, to host a public forum to discuss our vision and concerns for this critical central corner of our neighborhood.  Have you sent in your letter yet?  http://www.activist.one/saveourplaza

Tania Jackson, Chief of Staff for Brianne said she would bring this request back to the Councilmember.  Call her to ensure that our request for a community wide forum actually happens, 202-724-8181.
http://dccouncil.us/council/brianne-nadeau

In the meantime, we are organizing and continuing to reach out to Adams Morgan residents.

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SAVE OUR PLAZA
GET INVOLVED!

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MEET UP TO ORGANIZE— This Saturday, July 16, 2016, NOON (12pm) at our Plaza to be part of the core organizing efforts to win our vision for this special public space.  It’s SAVEOURPLAZE SATURDAY’S!

Petitions — We will also be petitioning all Saturday’s this summer starting at 10am at the Farmers Market.. can you be there?  Let us know. admo4rd@gmail.com || 202-670-2366

Send a note to Councilmember Brianne Nadeau >> http://www.activist.one/saveourplaza

Get updates by liking our Facebook page >> http://www.facebook.com/admo4rd

We live in a neighborhood that developers eye strictly for profit.  It’s a place where speculators seek to shoehorn large dormitory-style condos made of stick and plastic in between our unique historic homes and low-rise commercial buildings because of the massive money they fetch for such development.

Be there Saturdays at Noon to organize!
RSVP: admo4rd@gmail.com, 202-670-2366

 

Victory! Community Plaza Saved (for now)

Victory! Community Plaza Saved (for now)

Our historic plaza at the corner of 18th and Columbia has been given a temporary reprieve from being paved over by McCondos.

Between the many letters that were written into the record by YOU, and the great organizing that brought an array of Adams Morgan residents to the HPRB hearing, all taken together pushed the positive result today.

The Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) took up whether they would approve or deny Anne Brockett’s preservation report.

Brockett’s report called the site of the Suntrust bank, and its amazing history as “insignificant” in her full support of PN Hoffman’s gargantour project at our historic corner.

pnhoffmanlatest2

Larry Hargrove, 50+ year Adams Morgan resident living on Belmont Road called the failed HPO staff report, “startling” in its lack of substantiation.  Brockett’s report completely ignored the ANC resolution calling out major problems with the project.

Despite the outpouring of dissent to the project in its current configuration as well as the destruction of 90% + of the public plaza, the Chair of the HPRB, Gretchen Pfaehler, moved to approve the HPO’s staff report.

But the vote tied, three to three, so the proposal to support the flawed HPO report failed!  Victory!

Reparations for Adams Morgan residents!

During the hearing one of our fact-finding archival-archaeologists, Vikram, demonstrated the amazing history of victory over redlining racism which gifted the public this plaza [VIDEO] >> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaSpZajNd0o

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WHAT NEXT . . .

We have won a bit more time to see a much better redevelopment of this central corner in our neighborhood, such that we:

  1. Ensure the retention of the full historic public plaza from the face of the existing bank building all the way to the sidewalks (including the raised porch).
  2. Drive a campaign for the people to pursue purchase of the site through a combo of crowd-investor fundraising and public monies so we can keep our plaza and build a public resource behind it like a library, maker space, senior resource center, some truly affordable housing, etc.

Help Out and Engage to Save Our Plaza!

  • Conduct internet and archival research work
  • Social media campaigning
  • Investor identification and financial review
  • Alternative planning and design efforts
  • Gathering more petition signatures
    —-> send an email to admo4rd@gmail.com, or call 202-670-2366
ALSO, PLEASE MAKE CALLS TO BRIANNE NADEAU TO ASK HER TO HOST AN OPEN PUBLIC FORUM WIDELY ADVERTISED TO DISCUSS THE HISTORY OF OUR GATEWAY TO ADAMS MORGAN!  (202) 724-8181

… AND, JOIN US ON FACEBOOK!
www.facebook.com/admo4rd