Arts Desk

Birchmere Deal Falls Through

There is no Santa Claus, music lovers in Maryland! The Birchmere ain't gonna open a northern outpost after all. Here's the angry press release from Birchmere management:

July 25, 2007

To: ALL MEDIA
From: The Birchmere
Re: The Birchmere & Silver Spring

THE BIRCHMERE & SILVER SPRING

The Birchmere Music Hall announces today that its long good faith effort to open a second venue in Silver Spring, MD is over. Officials in the Montgomery County government have breached the county's long-standing agreement with the Birchmere to locate the venue on the site of the former J.C. Penney's store on Colesville Road. To date, the Birchmere has not been given a plausible reason for the breach. Any assertion by the county or any other entity that the parties were unable to reach agreement on the essential business terms is patently and demonstrably false. The Birchmere in good faith has repeatedly demonstrated that it is ready, able, and willing to perform all of its obligations under the agreement and, in fact, has already performed many of them.

The Birchmere was approached over five years ago by representatives of Montgomery County's Duncan administration with the request to bring its unique presentation of nationally and internationally known acts to Silver Spring. The county envisioned the Birchmere's famous seated, "listening-room" atmosphere featuring a complete food and drink menu and table service to be the final missing piece in the revitalization of Silver Spring. The Birchmere enthusiastically embraced the idea and the parties went about identifying a suitable location for the project. Many locations were considered but, as a result of representations and promises by the landowner, the long-abandoned J.C. Penney's storefront was chosen as the suitable site. More recently, the Birchmere has experienced difficulty obtaining in writing one or more of these representations and promises essential to the operation of the music hall.

All parties were to have benefited from the agreement: the Birchmere would establish a Silver Spring location as well as future considerations; the county would get the benefits of a newly energized neighborhood; and the landowner would be allowed to use the Birchmere as an amenity for the future development of a parking lot it owns in the rear of the site.

Following a long series of fits and starts, the Duncan administration determined about a year ago that the time was appropriate for the parties to take the final steps necessary to complete the project. Agreement on the essential business terms was reached between the Birchmere, the county, and the landowner; as a direct result, the Birchmere allowed its name, image, and national reputation to be used to promote the project. Soon the site was adorned with the Birchmere logo as the county announced to the public that an agreement had been reached and the Birchmere was coming to Silver Spring.

The candidates for county executive, including Isiah Leggett, were informed of the agreement and endorsed it and the project. A groundswell of public support led by Silver Spring Forward rose in response to the concept and the Birchmere's commitment. This, along with other factors such as additional efforts by the Birchmere, led in turn to the approval of state and local funding of the project. It appeared nothing would stand in the way of the Birchmere's arrival to Silver Spring.

Now, without cause or plausible explanation, the county has apparently chosen to breach its agreement with the Birchmere. It appears the county and/or the landowner is ready to announce -or perhaps already has- a replacement for the Birchmere. The replacement is allegedly a stand-up nightclub concept, more traditionally associated with drink rather than food service. The Duncan administration's vision for the unique role of The Birchmere in the revitalization of Silver Spring appears to have been hijacked; it now seems the style and role of the music venue in the community is insignificant compared to its use as a tool in a complicated private development plan.

The Birchmere wishes to sincerely thank all of its many supporters for all of their hard work in the effort to bring the Birchmere to Silver Spring. The Birchmere deeply shares in their disappointment. As for the future, the Birchmere, now in its 41st year, will continue to offer its legendary live music performances and hospitality at its Alexandria, VA venue and will now resume actively seeking expansion opportunities in the D.C. marketplace.

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  • Mary

    I am so disappointed and shocked at this decision. The Birchmere was just the venue that we were hoping would enhance the feel and look of our culturally diverse community.

    Mary

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