Housing Complex

Demolition by Neglect at Takoma Theater?

Not doing so hot. (Lydia DePillis)

Not doing so hot. (Lydia DePillis)

It's been five months since the Office of Planning firmly denied Milton McGinty's request to demolish the Takoma Theater, his long-shuttered venue on 4th and Butternut Streets NW. Since we spoke in early June, he first insisted that he would sue in Superior Court to reverse the decision, and then backed off that promise. "I really don’t want to spend the money filing a suit and then have no money left to build the building," McGinty told me in late September.

In the mean time, the 87-year-old building has fallen even deeper into disrepair. In a mid-August letter to interested parties–including the Takoma Theater Conservancy, which has been trying to buy and renovate the theater for years now–McGinty said that he would be putting no more money into maintenance. Then came the heavy rains, which didn't help the mold that makes it hard to breathe inside the theater. According to a visitor in September, there's also a resident cat.

Until about a decade ago, nothing would have forced McGinty to do anything with the property, as long as he didn't actively knock down the theater. But under D.C.'s "demolition by neglect" statute, he's actually forbidden from allowing the building to fall so far into disrepair that it's no longer salvageable. The Conservancy's Loretta Neumann knows that the more the roof leaks and the mold festers, the more expensive it will be to renovate.

Neumann has convened a meeting tonight with Councilmember Muriel Bowser, the Historic Preservation Office, and DCRA to figure out what to do next. It's at 7:00 p.m. at the Takoma Education Center.

  • concerned

    This situation really upsets me. While you are freely reporting Mr. McGinty's perceived errors, you neglect to mention that the indovidual who raised concerns about mold inside of the building on behalf of the conservancy did not have anyone's consent to enter the property and, in fact, broke into the theater to "inspect" it as a private citizen. In addition, although the conservancy has been trying to "buy" the property for some years, they've come up with a grand total of $160,000 for a property with an appraised value of $1.5 Million. The conservancy may want a theater, but as an owner, shouldn't Milton McGinty have property rights as owner and the person who pays taxes for the property and, surely, no one is suggesting that he should take a $1.4Million loss on the property because the conservancy wants a theater. Its a sad day when a group of people who have done nothing to pay for the upkeep or purchase of a building feel free to manage a private landowner's rights. Shame on them for messing with an elderly man and shame on D.C. for having no respect for private property rights!

  • Rick Mangus

    There is nothing historical about the Takoma Theater, it's an eyesore, tear it down!

  • Simone de Lima

    Concerned- interestingly you don't leave a real name- I'd suggest you check your facts before accuising a dedicated group of neighborhood cultural activists if I wasn't pretty sure you know the facts but chose to distort them.

    Rick, although tastes vary. of course, many in the DC area and beyond see the beauty and historical importance of the Theatre, myself included, as an important art deco building, one of the last designed by John Jacob Zinc that is still standing. I'd also encourage people to become familiar with the great work the folks who are striving to save the theater are doing in area schools with the Smithsonian...the Takoma Theatre would be a fabulous venue for all that activity and much more.

  • concerned

    Simone, here's some facts that I'm pretty sure I have right: you don't own the property and you can't afford to buy it. Until you can and the gentlemen who does chooses to sell to you, you have no right to attempt to tell him what to do with the property. In case you didn't realize, although the property may be designated historic, it is not publicly owned.