City Desk

14th and T: Reality Edition

Commenters have beeen tearing it up over at 14th and T: The Good News, Bad News Edition, many of them in support of Diner/Tryst/Open City owner Constantine Stavropoulos and comedy club impresario John Xereas, who had hoped—with the help of Dave Chappelle and others—to develop local businesses inside the former Church of the Reformer. That plan now looks even more like a dream deferred to Minneapolis-based furniture outfit Room & Board.

Blame the "big-box mentality" if you like, but here's what really happened, according to Wayne Dickson, who, as principal partner at Blake Dickson Real Estate Services, represents the owners of the building: "Whoever writes the first check gets the space. That's the beginning and the end of the story....They [the local business owners] didn't have the money and had no assurance they could get the money."

Dickson is not unsympathetic to Stavropoulos and John X. He was the one who helped Stavropoulos move into Woodley Park in what is now Open City. They're friends and he says he has high esteem for both men. But that doesn't mean Four Points, his clients and the owners of the building, are making a bad decision.

"Think of yourself in their position," he says. "They have a building that's been vacant for three years and has a significant debt service every month....You've got this company coming in saying, 'Here is a check' and you've got other interested parties saying, 'Give me 60 to 90 days and let me see if I can get the money.' Let's say you give them 90 days and in the meantime, Room & Board walks. Heads roll over something like that. People lose their jobs."

Stavropoulos and Co. will have to find another space and Dickson says he's happy to help them do that. He has one spot already in mind, the former home of the Central Union Mission at 14th and R. But Stavropoulos has poured a good deal of energy into getting people on board with the project at 14th and T—"He really worked hard. He walked the streets talking to people," says Dickson, who has lived within three blocks of 14th and T for 25 years.

But Room & Board is coming. The chief financial officers is in town today lining things up. He and Dickson met with Councilmember Jack Evans today, partially based on the anti-chain reaction from the neighborhood. Evans' position, according to Dickson, is that government has no part in the sale of the building.

Dickson is quick to defend Room & Board. It's "not some giant big-box store," he says. It has seven stores nationwide, the closest being in SoHo in NYC. "It's going to have a tremendous regional draw to this neighborhood and I think that is a win-win."

The store, he says, will likely open about two years from now. An architect has already been hired.

(City Paper photograph by Pilar Vergara)

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  • Ryan Grim

    Wayne Dickson has an obvious incentive to make his decision look reasonable, especially in the face of all the community outrage that he'd rather sell to a furniture chain than a Chapelle-backed independent movie theater and whatever the hell else they were planning. But that doesn't mean you folks have to believe him or cite him here as if he's some neutral arbiter.

    And what is this?? "But that doesn’t mean Four Points, his clients and the owners of the building, are making a bad decision." If you're an alt-weekly or an alt-weekly reader, then yes! That's exactly what it means! It's not just a bad decision, it's a stupid and greedy one, too. I don't wanna hear about who wrote the check first. If it's a question of who has more capital at their disposal in a quick fashion, then of course the chain wins. Bah!

    Oh, and they have a store in SoHo? So does every other chain nowadays. And it'll have a "tremendous regional draw"? Great, a bunch of assholes from VA and MD will bring their minivans to the neighborhood. I can't wait. (And before anyone points it out, yes, it's true that i'm an asshole from MD myself.)

  • Jule Banville

    Poor writing on my part. It's not my view that it's a good or bad decision. It's his view that it is not a bad decision and I thought I was making that clear in presenting Dickson's views and involvement. I'm simply putting his side of things out there to the masses interested in following what's happening to this building. But I do not think that just because we're an alt-weekly we have to pull out some sort of knee-jerk opinion about the morality of who buys what in this town. It's not my goal nor my standing to decide what should and should not move in to 14th and T. It's my goal to follow the story. I've done two major posts on this already, both of them more than fair to the plight and efforts of Constantine and John X. This is real estate. There's always another side of the story.

  • Ryan Grim

    I'm de-friending Jule on Friendster!

  • Ronald Clayton

    I purchased a unit in the Nolando Condominium,located at 14th and T, after relocating from New York 10 months ago. My unit directly faces the property in question. The graffiti is gone, and that is a good start. Mr. Grim's angry, vitriolic rage is inappropriate, at best. Rage on Ryan -- you are not only Grim, but small. Can't wait to make you acquaintance.

    Shout out to Jule Banville for remaining true to your profession as a journalist.

  • downtown rez

    "Great, a bunch of assholes from VA and MD will bring their minivans to the neighborhood."

    When it gets down to it, that's kinda what the bar/club scene is like, isn't it?

  • James

    Jule, the 'outrage' is a tempest in a teapot. Having the building fixed up & put to good use is what is really wanted. There's plenty of space around 14th & U for more entertainment venues like the diner comedy club. Room & Board will bring more people & business to the neighborhood.

  • Henry Kissinger

    James' point really is the key here. 14th Street is filled with empty storefronts, and there is no reason why someone wanting to do Tryst, or (another) yoga studio, or comedy club, can't lease or buy those. The "either/or" dichotomy that many have tried to draw here is a false one.

  • SD

    Heaven forbid we Virginia assholes wish to spend some of our money in DC. I guess Grim would prefer it if we just came to work here in the morning and left in the evening, utilizing infrastructure without spending much cash to support it. Or would it be better if we never came into DC at all so its business districts could die?

  • Reid

    Actually, it would be better if you came to work here and actually paid income taxes here, you know, like every other city in the country can do.