Housing Complex

Neighborhood Hangover

What Does D.C.'s Adams Morgan Want To Be When It Grows Up?

For three months, the streets of Adams Morgan have been filled with dust and din. Jackhammers and backhoes tear their way through road and sidewalk reconstruction. Pedestrians have to skip around Jersey barriers and heavy equipment to get where they’re going, cars at the bottom of 18th Street stall in one-lane bottlenecks, and the fumes of freshly-laid asphalt lend an acrid cast to the air.

Adams Morgan’s physical environment, though, is peaceful and pristine compared to the rancor among its citizens lately. Message boards, email exchanges, and public meetings have all burned with a higher-than-average temperature in recent months.

Local residents have long fought the nightlife industry that brings a stampede of brawling drunks to 18th Street on the weekends. Streets littered with pizza crusts and broken glass are the kind of scene that underlies the refrain “we don’t want to become another Adams Morgan” in neighborhoods across the city.

But right now, Adams Morgan is facing some big changes. A proposal for a luxury hotel that would be built on top of and behind the First Church of Christ Scientist near 18th Street and Columbia Road pits businesses that want more foot traffic against some residents who fear for their peace and quiet. Brick and mortar restaurants battled a three-year-old weekly gathering of outdoor food vendors, and finally won. In August, the Department of Small and Local Business Development* held a hearing to reauthorize the Business Improvement District for five more years; many retailers came out to complain that the BID catered only to nighttime businesses. Meanwhile, daytime businesses are suffering from the construction—which was supposed to have come with more solid assistance from the city than the no-interest loans that are available now—and talking about suing the District for relief.

The general discourse has gotten downright uncivil, so much so that it’s become exasperating to onlookers.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the backbiting and nastiness at this level,” says Bryan Weaver, former chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C. “And now I’m like, a pox on all your houses.”

Long-entrenched personality conflicts play a role in Adams Morgan, just as in any neighborhood. But much of the acrimony can be traced to a fundamental tension between two imagined futures. In one, Adams Morgan becomes a quiet, residential neighborhood with retail that serves the local community. In the other, it’s a playground for tourists and out-of-towners who want some local color during the day and a bar crawl at night.

Neither of those poles is realistic or desirable. The question, then, is whether one can live with the other.

* * *

It took time for Adams Morgan to become the District’s most infamous party zone. Two decades ago, the 1991 riots in Mount Pleasant created a chill that spread to surrounding neighborhoods. Bars replaced shops that folded or fled. Even when a liquor license moratorium went into effect in 2000, restaurants upgraded to tavern-class licenses, allowing them to stay open later and serve less food. The number of tavern licenses is now capped at 10, although from the mayhem on any given Saturday night, it’s hard to tell.

The Adams Morgan Business Improvement District, which levies an extra tax on property owners within a defined area, was formed in 2005 as a kind of compromise between the daytime and the nightlife. The co-presidents are Steven Greenleigh, a landlord who rents to several bars on 18th Street, and Constantine Stavropoulos, who owns Tryst and the Diner.

Denis James, a carpenter who for the past seven years has crusaded against liquor license holders as president of the Kalorama Citizens Association, says the BID just cleans up after the mess the bars allow their customers to make. Last week, he penned a letter to the Adams Morgan Yahoo Group entitled “Adams Morgan, Inc.” complaining about the nightlife industry’s domination of the BID’s affairs. “The way I look at it, they take a crap in the middle of the street, and clean up after it and say hey, we’re doing our job,” James says.

Kristen Barden, the BID’s executive director, sees James as an anti-business zealot. “Sometimes I think it’s amazing to me that people survive, because he does everything he can to destroy them,” she says. “What do you want, vacant storefronts? Do you think that’s going to help your property values? That’s just backward thinking.”

It’s easy to peg Adams Morgan’s problems as a conflict between residents and businesses. That divide does manifest itself: The ANC has already passed a resolution demanding a maximum width of the newly widened sidewalks be reserved for pedestrians, rather than outdoor cafés for businesses, once they’re complete.

But the Adams Morgan business community itself is still divided, with daytime shops feeling that the BID spends too much—a total of $45,000 in fiscal year 2012—for off-duty police officers* to keep the peace after midnight. Several businesses and property owners testified against the BID’s reauthorization during the August council hearing (a year after it was supposed to have happened, since its authorization expired in 2010).

James Nixon, who owns the Peruvian goods store Toro Mata, left the BID’s board of directors, along with several other retailers who felt they weren’t being listened to. Instead, he worked with groups like the Kalorama Citizens Association to get the Metropolitan Police Department to launch Operation Adams Morgan, which put many more officers on the street over the summer to try to quell the insanity. “It wasn’t the BID,” Nixon says of the operation’s success. “It was a repudiation of the BID.”

Nixon also rails against Adams Morgan Main Street, which duplicates many BID functions using grants arranged by Councilmember Jim Graham, and whose president Lisa Duperier has used an assumed name on the Adams Morgan email list to critique Denis James (she says she regrets that, but did it because many people feel afraid to speak out publicly against the KCA president). And then there’s the Adams Morgan Business and Professionals Association, run by local commercial real estate agent Pat Patrick, who uses the name of the organization even though members say it hasn’t held an open meeting in years. Under the aegis of the AMBPA, for example, he threatened to sue the city over the Latin American food vendors who used to sell at the triangle park on Euclid and Champlain streets. That finally prompted city officials to shut the market down.

Bill Duggan, who owns the venerable watering hole Madams Organ, is fed up with the groups that are supposed to represent him. “I have never seen such a big group of underachievers,” he says, after running through a litany of complaints about competence and allegations of criminality. “They’re scum. I can’t even go to the meetings, because I can’t take hearing it.”

If anything could fix the daytime vs. nighttime business problem, it might be the 227-room luxury hotel that developer Brian Friedman wants to build on Champlain Street—on land that currently includes the offices of Washington City Paper—which would send visitors with disposable income up and down the retail strip. But this proposal has generated more heartache than anything else over the last year: It will violate the zoning overlay the neighborhood put in place over two decades ago to preserve its residential character. Recently, leaders of the Reed Cooke Neighborhood Association took offense when Friedman called them “obstructionists,” and in turn accused Friedman of trying to pack their membership with supporters of the hotel, which he denies.

“If you don’t believe in what they want, they will attack you,” says RCNA president Maureen Gallagher, of Friedman and his partners.

That seems to characterize most people in the neighborhood.

* * *

Can anything break up the tensions in Adams Morgan? It’s an open question. Many residents and shops that have been fighting the booze economy for years consider the neighborhood too far gone to bring back.

But the crisply milled granite curbstones of the new streetscape outline a better future. Daytime businesses will see their clientele return, and nighttime revelers might behave better with wider sidewalks.

Some residents just want their old retail strip back, so they don’t have to get in a car for basic goods. “Going back to businesses that serve the neighborhood,” says RCNA member Peter Lyden. “That’s what we want.”

But that’s not terribly likely. The retail landscape has shifted irreversibly, after all, with online shopping providing stiff competition. One of the only proven strategies for helping local retail survive is to cluster similar businesses with each other, creating nodes like a “furniture district” on 14th Street. Residents might not like it, but Adams Morgan is “the stupid drunk district,” and the bars, the most powerful interests in the neighborhood, don’t really want to change that.

If the neighborhood has any hope—because some bomb-throwers will never be satisfied—it needs to do two things.

One: Seriously invest in the kind of nightlife management strategies that have been hugely successful in cities around the country, like Seattle and Boulder, Colo. Soundproofing, community policing, an operator code of conduct to prevent over-service of alcohol, and messaging campaigns to promote better bar-hopper behavior are a few examples of the “responsible hospitality” approach to help nighttime economies coexist with their daytime alter egos.

Two: Make room for office space. People like to work in Adams Morgan; just try to get a seat at Tryst in the middle of a Tuesday. If more second and third floors were rented out to small tech or design firms, the streets would be busier during the day. Operating bars wouldn’t be the only way to make money on 18th Street.

But before any of that happens, people need to start talking to each other outside the high-pressure context of a vote on a zoning application or protest hearing on a liquor license. And it might be a good idea to just shut down all the neighborhood email lists.

Photos by Darrow Montgomery

Got a real-estate tip? Send suggestions to ldepillis@washingtoncitypaper.com. Or call (202) 650-6928.


* Revised from a previous version; the $120,000 funds a full-time security guard and part-time consultant as well as the additional police. Also, the BID reauthorization hearing happened at the Wilson Building, but was administrative, not before the D.C. Council. What Does D.C.'s Adams Morgan Want To Be When It Grows Up?
What Does D.C.'s Adams Morgan Want To Be When It Grows Up?

What Does D.C.'s Adams Morgan Want To Be When It Grows Up?
What Does D.C.'s Adams Morgan Want To Be When It Grows Up?

  • kob

    Excellent suggestion on increasing office rental and drawing in tech firms. Adams Morgan has a lot of people who work from home and help keep places like Tryst busy during the day. There's potential for a lot of interesting spaces.

  • Chris O.

    I liked this article... although a bit too much op/ed about personalities.

    The hotel will not help with the rowdy bar scene weekends in Adams Morgan, it will bring it closer to the residential neighborhood. That's a problem.

    Couldn't the church be turned in to a library and the rest of the lot some flexible office space to build daytime traffic. That way the church will always be around -- as a library -- serving all residents, instead of a massive luxury hotel serving only the top 5% of the population from out of town.

  • styrax

    Pat Patrick ...you know the restaurants you think are threatened by the Latino market aren't going to see an increase in business now that it's gone because they still suck.

  • Sarah

    As an AdMo resident, I am very sad to see the Latino market gone. While I didn't eat there, I felt it was a great addition and brought more people to the area, which is what we want.

    Affinity Lab used to be above the Diner but it moved to U Street. It would be great to see another office there.

    Regarding the "crazy drunks" on the weekend, we need to acknowledge that this is a huge part of our economy and be better about managing it. We should close 18 Street to traffic at 10 PM - 5 AM on Friday and Saturday night. The 90 buses are no longer on 18 Street so we'd only have to reroute the L2. This would stop a lot of the loitering in cars that is plaguing the area. It would be a lot easier for the cops to manage without the cars. Bars should be made to stop serving alcohol at 2 AM but stay open until 4 AM with other refreshments so people can sober up. The metro should run 24 hours on weekends.

    And, yes, close down the nasty listserves.

  • Jeff

    I like the idea of more office space. What about rezoning part of the strip (or most of it) as residential, and converting it to condos? There's a huge need for housing in NW DC, and there's simply too much retail space on 18th St with no clear utility (other than catering to out-of-towners who want to get loaded). If we don't need the retail space, let's reclaim it for residential use.

  • Andrew

    I can't believe they got rid of that sidewalk market in the triangle, it was great. What a stupid, shortsighted idea.

  • D

    Adams Morgan has a handful of folks that hold onto to old, petty personal disputes. A few of these folks somehow believe that every decision made by every businessperson should be approved personally by them first. Whether they realize it or not, these people actively work to the detriment of the neighborhood and have helped to create the late-night weekend environment that exists today.

    Thankfully, there is a broader base of residents who care deeply about the future of the neighborhood and realize that steadfast opposition to any and all change is not the answer. Citywide and neighborhood leadership need to recognize this too. Despite its troubles, there's some good stuff going on in Adams Morgan, and the hotel should be one of them.

  • Scoot

    I would guess that high tech firms and other small businesses need somewhat affordable rent, which is very hard to come by in Adams Morgan. Landlords do not seem willing to give much leeway to new businesses... they proffer exorbitant rent and operating licenses that only bars can afford. This should be addressed at the BID level.

    The street scape process will go a long way to calming pedestrian activity in the neighborhood. However it would be nice to see some more locally-serving businesses move into the strip or surrounding area ...

  • Ward 1 Voter

    I'll be interested to see what 18th is like after the street improvement stuff is all done. If it's dramatically better, that could shift the mix of people hanging out there from all the drunk kids from the 'burbs to something more reflective of the area. That would be good.

    Like everyone from Adams Morgan, I have definite opinions about what should and shouldn't be done to make our 'hood better. Fortunately, Lydia hits on most of them. Something that should be mentioned though is the decrepit state of Columbia Road. The whole strip from 16th to 18th looks seedy and dingy. Some people may think that's part of the charm of Adams Morgan, but it wouldn't be any less charming with a fresh coat of paint, or new signage, or sidewalks that aren't crumbling. I mean, my God, it says something when Mt. Pleasant Street looks more freshly-scrubbed.

  • tom veil

    Just as long as Adams Morgan doesn't turn into another Adams Morgan! :)

  • foodim

    I appreciate that there have been some excellent comments. A hotel that caters to out of towners who will be out sightseeing at places like the white house and the smithsonian during the day and drunken partygoers wanting a hotel room to extend the party into the wee hours is not going to help our neighborhood thrive in the daytime. We need more office commercial space. and spaces like tryst. We could use more places like that in our neighborhood. We could use more places that cater to the neighborhood, where the focus isn't on getting drunk, instead of places that drive a lot of residents away from the commercial strip. The socioeconomic range of this neighborhood suggests that we can support a lot of different types of businesses and wouldn't have to lure drunken partygoers from VA and MD to puke on our sidewalks, litter our streets(and FYI, the BID doesnt pick up street trash on Sundays, so my regular walk to the farmers market on Sunday morning is an obstacle course of pizza boxes,smashed pizza leftovers, puke, and broken glass). The new streetscape project will make a big difference in how 18th St looks and feels. And will regenerate our neighborhood. A hotel development that towers over the neighborhood and brings more bar and restaurant activity into the residential neighborhood streets is not a good way to help our neighbhorhood and will also set a precedent for the neighborhood as a whole, and the city as a whole. Currently hotels are specifically prohibited in this part of Adams Morgan by DC's Comprehensive Plan. And they're not just prohibited in our neighborhood but many other adjacent neighborhoods. So if we disregard the zoning entirely then it sets a precedent in all of Adams Morgan and frankly all of the city. There are 4 more development projects waiting in the wings on Champlain st and you can bet that each of those property owners is waiting to see what happens here to see if they can also up the ante on their properties. Unless we want to see hotels and bars popping up on every street and in every quandrant of this nieghborhood, and in other residential areas of the city, than it stands to reason that this project is a terrible idea, and if we take the DC Comprehensive Plan as a legally binding document then it is frankly illegal to build a hotel here, unless the Comprhenesive Plan is changed.

  • Andrew (resident of Adams Morgan)

    The increased police presence on the weekends created a noticeable drop in late night incidents. As someone who lives just a block off 18th ST, the worst part about living in the neighborhood is the noise and criminal activity that happens consistently between 2am and 4am on Fridays and Saturdays. But it was shown that increased police presence will make a difference if done in the right way. The Adams Morgan BID had its chance to tackle this problem and it failed miserably. That's the best argument against the BID. But it is still worth experimenting to find the right formula that allows for a vibrant nightlife that doesn't bring the exuberant amount of criminal behavior that has been a constant theme of the Adams Morgan nightlife.

    Other than that this neighborhood has more amenities than nearly every other in the District. One great grocery store with Harris Teeter and another decent one with Safeway. Better (and more affordable restaurants) than most neighborhoods (i.e., Meskerm, the Reef, Tryst, the Diner, La Fourchette, Himalayan Heritage, Asylum, etc.). If you want retail, the Connecticut St. shops in Dupont are minutes way, or the funkier clothing outlets off U St. are within a few feet. It's not like a Target, Walmart, or other big box would be plunked down anywhere in the neighborhood. I'm not sure what other retail amenities there are which aren't already in the neighborhood or within a few minutes of walking.

    The three biggest issues for the future success of the Adams Morgan are (1) Can we keep a reasonable cap on late night crime, so that residents can live (and sleep) reasonably safely? (2) Can we attract day-time businesses that will utilize the great amenities during the day when most residents are at work outside of the neighborhood (3) Can we develop a better shared sense of community so that the residents who only spend a year or two feel as invested in the community as those who have been in Adams Morgan for decades? This would increase the quality of life by reducing problems as simple as littering and addressing more complex problems such as the quality of local schools.

    Overall, a great article about a neighborhood with awesome potential, but with obvious hurdles in the way. A major one being ourselves.

  • neighbor

    This is all a conflict about rent seeking between established business and new business that want to start in an economically booming neighborhood. If you don't want to live in Adams Morgan because you don't like bars or nightlife, you shouldn't live in Adams Morgan. Its a big city. Everybody wants their neighborhood to be like Georgetown. They should just move to Georgetown. New businesses are good. New hotels are good. Both are much better than empty store fronts or empty churches. They employ people, generate tax revenue, improve the city scape, and increase property values. Issue a liquor license to anyone who will hire more than 10 people.

  • foodim

    Georgetown has the same issues as we do in Adams Morgan, and they continue to try and address them, just like we should. If we always simply took the attitude that it's already bad, so who cares if it gets worse, every part of this world would be unlivable.

    You also make a statement about improving the cityscape. A building that is totally out of scale with the surrounding buildings does not improve a cityscape, it creates an eyesore. If you take the time to read DC's comprehensive plan you will find out that the proposed hotel building, at its current height and scope, is expressly discouraged. And this isnt unique to Adams Morgan, it's just that people like you seem to feel that Adams Morgan doesnt deserve the same respect as other neighborhoods. Not very neighborly if you ask me.

    You also make the assumption that everyone is simply capable of moving on a whim to some "other" place, without any consideration for rent or people's employment situation, or their ties to the neighborhood and their neighbors. A lot of the people that are against projects like the hotel are homeowners, some who have lived here for 30+ years. We have ties to the niehgborhood and an invested interest in how the neighborhood grows. Obviously if you only plan on living here for a year until your internship is over your only going to care about nightlife and not care what happens to the neighborhood. And if everyone thought that way we would simply let everything fall into a decline which has happened several times in the past.

    It would be more helpful to keep this conversation constructive based on the merits of new projects. There always has to be a balance, and allowing unlimited bars and restaurants, and issuing a liquor licesnse to anyone who will hire more than 10 people does not create a balance. And besides, there are plenty of other bars and restaurants all over the city and plenty of other neighborhoods where people can party, so there's no need for all of that activity to be concentrated in one neighborhood. In fact, a truly vibrant city has its amenities spread out over all it's neighborhoods so that they can be accessible and not overwhelm the residential neighborhoods outside of the central business district. We already have plenty of hotel accomodations inluding large hotels, boutique hotels, and guesthouses within a very short walk of all the commercial and retail businesses in Adams Morgan. These include: the Washington Hilton, the Omni Shoreham, the Marriot Wardman Park, the Churchill, the American Guest House B&B, the Kalorama Guest House, the Normandy Hotel, the Taft Bridge Inn, the Gallery Inn Hotel, and the Washington International Student Center. I think it's safe to say we are pretty saturated with hotels within a 10-15 minute walk of the main commercial drag of Adams Morgan.

    Adams Morgan has tipped over the edge into an excessively rowdy bar district that no other neighborhood envies, where building owners making money don't keep up their buildings. If we always pander to business interests we will just end up with more of this disregard for the neighborhood in favor of greedy landowners and developers. We need to create a better balance and have a constrcutive conversation about the future vision for the Adams Morgan neighborhood.

  • Bill Duggan

    A few minor corrections to your story
    The complaints about the BID are not just voiced by the daytime businesses. As was very clear at the re-authorization meeting and vote; a great majority of the small and medium business and property owners voted to dissolve the BID. The BID only survived on the proxy votes of the large, corporate property owners who were lobbied by the BID employees and Board members
    although Brian Weaver now wants to stand above the fray, it was Brian Weaver, as Chairman of the ANC who ramped up the vitriol when his ANC spent nearly the full yearly budget of the ANC, funds normally dedicated to helping less-advantaged residents and non-profits, to hire an attorney to fight every ABC licensed establishment whether there were problems with them or not...in excess of $20, 000
    And, finally, as for my comment about these neighborhood leaders being "scum" I was not referring to the ANC, but to Lisa Duperrier and Chuck Brazie(both of whose misdeeds and allegations of theft, fraud and misappropriation of monies have been well-documented and disseminated) and to those organizations and individuals who, with full knowledge of this dynamic duo's "ethical challenges" continue to hire, consult and consort with them...to the detriment of the neighborhood's and their own reputations
    As for the main thrust of your story: I, for one, have no intention of growing up anytime soon

  • Christine

    "And it might be a good idea to just shut down all the neighborhood email lists."

    As a subscriber to the Adams Morgan Yahoo! listserv (and, so far as I know, that's the only one there is, so we're not talking about multiple "lists" here) I could not disagree more. Yes, the list has seen a lot of sturm und drang recently, but on an average day it's completely banal, not to mention informative and useful. I hate to fall back on a cliché, but let's not throw out the baby with the bath water.

  • Admomaven

    It is my understanding that the Adams Morgan BID has cleaning services 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There are even clean team members working on every Federal Holiday.

  • toomtide

    AdMo's just at a junction: its hey-day as the crazy party scene of choice is behind it, though the party still goes on, and it hasn't found its new identity yet. The residential areas are actually quite nice, expensive, full of trees, and even quiet in many places. I hope it never becomes a Georgetown, but it should definitely move more to attract design / tech firms and get more bakeries, local delis, etc... in the vein of Barracks Row.

    The nightlife can be part of that, as the nice brunch scene and several good restaurants are a direct result of that nighttime economy. So, let's be careful drawing these lines of daytime versus nighttime businesses.

  • toomtide

    Also - as a resident, I think the hotel development will be a great addition to the neighborhood and help it to move in a new and better direction. How great would it be if funky, boutique hotels set up shop, or the neighborhood became a bastion of modern architectural experimentation in a city that fights anything new at every step. There's no reason AdMo should be seen as some staid historical district when it could be such a fertile ground for experimentation to match its personality.

    The suggestion above to replace commercial space on 18th Street with condos, however, is awful and negates the vibrancy of a walkable community.

  • foodim

    to Admomaven:
    Do you live in the neighborhood? Maybe you should actually walk down Champlain St on a Sunday morning around 10 or 11am.

    to toomtide:
    You say yes to hotels next to residential to create vibrancy but no to condos next to commercial on 18th st because you're concerned about the vibrancy of a walkable community. I'm going to guess you own a business on 18th st. That's the only rationale I can think of because your post doesn't make sense.

  • D

    To foodim: toomtide's posts make perfect sense to me. I don't aim to snipe, but ask you sincerely to be more open to a little change. Consider the alternative: The church will lie fallow while you hold your breath for the perfect tenant. I'm sure that most of your neighbors wouldn't be happy about that.

  • Freestyler

    Adams Morgan is a community divided in self-defeating, anger. The vitriol poisons public/online debate. People want to preserve parks and trees, but spew alienating commentary aimed at public officials and whomever's listening, which inhibits rather than encourages positive action.

    Making AdMo safe and clean is afflicted by similar vindictive exchanges at public meetings and online. And what about AdMo's day life? As someone who works at home -- yes, our hood is kind of nice in a understated way, but not even quietly vibrant. And how many businesses have survived, other than a handful of "cool" restaurants (i.e. Tryst), a few coffee/lunch places and some businesses selling quality or trendy goods?

    I've lived in Adams Morgan twice -- in the late 70s -early 80s and again since 2005. Trust me, the first experience was supremely better. We were truly diverse, truly a community. Now it's a cacophony of adversaries undermining community well-being.

    And the disbanding of the Latino market was shameful.

  • foodim

    I'm not holding out for the perfect tenant. The church is holding out for the highest bidder. The First Church of Christ Scientist still owns the church. They had many proposals but went with the highest bidder. The Church, which claims they are so concerned about the preservation of the building, are the ones preventing the HPRB from moving forward on a landmark designation hearing. The church is trying to milk as much money out of this deal as possible, so they went with the highest bidder, not necessarily the best use.

    Unlike a regular building owner the church doesnt have to pay taxes on it while they leave it vacant. A regular building owner would have to pay a lot of taxes for a vacant building. So the church can hold out for the highest bidder because it doesn't cost them anything.

    And you have also left out the fact that there are 2 buildings involved in the hotel development, the Church and the CityPaper building. The City Paper building is a functioning commercial building that doesnt detract at all from the neighborhood. And it's the city paper building lot where the bulk of the hotel is proposed to be built. So I ask you, why would you tear down a perfectly usable building that is fully occupied by tenants that have strong ties to the city and the neighborhood?

    And besides, I can appreciate the architecture of the Church without having to go inside, so even without a tenant, it provides for an interesting streetscape all the same.

  • D

    foodim: thanks for the reply. I would be interested to see the other bids the church received. But the church was primarily concerned with restoration of the interior - not just preservation of the existing shell. Friedman (with the help of the tax abatement) was able to put forth the capital needed to satisfy that objective. I'd be shocked if any other proposals could come close.

    City Paper is a solid DC institution that I'm happy to have in Adams Morgan, but I've heard multiple times that they were planning to look for a new locale anyway. And, someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I understand that CP is receiving some kind of remuneration for remaining in their office lease until the hotel begins construction. If that's the case, I think it's safe to remove the CP building lot from the equation.

    Lastly, buildings are always better when used by residents. Leaving a building empty is a disservice to our community even if you can appreciate the church's architecture without going in. For example, the hotel plans call for significant space to be set aside by AMLYA which serves at risk neighborhood youth.

  • toomtide

    @foodim - repurposing an unused church property that's not on the main strip and holds no current or past commercial value into a vibrant high-end hotel (not one drunks will turn to as a last resort) that will bridge a current gap is not at all the same as advocating destroying existing retail space on a vibrant commercial strip to create a residential dead zone. I have no problem with putting new condos / offices on top of the retail strip to help evolve the hood. That would be good since there's a lot of one-story buildings under-utilizing their position on 18th.

    No, I'm not a business owner. Yes, I am a resident for many years.

  • Andrew (resident of Adams Morgan)

    Admomaven: The BID cleaners really only "clean" up the sidewalks and streets up and down 18th street. This is partly due to the fact that the business that contribute to the BID's funding are on 18th ST. However, cleaning up 18th ST is only half of the problem. As anyone who lives in the neighborhood knows, the mess that the nightlife causes spills over into all of the surrounding streets and is sometimes worse than 18th street.

    I'm all for a vibrant nightlife, but why are business paying a premium to fund the BID when the barely do a competent job at two things the organization exists for: 1) extra police on the weekends and 2) cleaning up after the nightlife.

    As I stated in my first post, the Adams Morgan blitz the DCPD staged in the late half of the summer was extremely effective. It seemed like the negative externalities of a vibrant nightlife were actually fairly contained. The DCPD did what the BID could never accomplish with its off-duty police: actual control. I'm not sure that's the entire fault of the BID, but they certainly weren't accomplishing one of the tasks they were created for.

    And like I discussed above, the BID's cleanup crew doesn't do a great job. 18th ST on Sunday doesn't look a whole lot better than it does Saturday at 3:00am and the surrounding streets have dustbowl style jumbo slice pizza plates blowing down the road.

    My whole point is the BID, who supposedly represents a majority of the business, is failing. It's only true function now is that of a lobbyist, pushing the interests of the business on the ANC and others. I'm all for businesses having a major voice in the community, but I find it hard to believe that the current state of the BID is a representative voice of the businesses in Adams Morgan.

    The failure of the BID's leadership is also somewhat connected to the failure of other leadership in the community. The hotel fiasco is just another example. The hotel will both benefit the community and create some negatives. Instead of trying to maximize the benefit and reduce the affect of the negatives, the various leadership organizations (Reed Cooke being one) have stamped their feet and held their breath trying to make the hotel disappear. I wish someone would stand up and tell the truth to the neighborhood about what they see as the benefits and the negatives. Far too often, we've only heard extreme positions on either side who seem to think there is no middle ground.

  • Simi Batra

    As a long time Adams Morgan resident - I live a block away from the proposed hotel - I support a hotel at the Church location. However, I do not support THIS particular hotel project. This one is too big, too tall, too dense and would bring too many cars to the very narrow local streets. By all means, please build a hotel, but don't waive every zoning regulation in order to do so.

    And for the various posters who say "no other developer wanted to build here." That's not true. No other developer was offered the $40 million-plus tax abatement. That was only offered to this one particular developer, and then whisked through the City Council as emergency legislation. If we put the tax abatement out for public bid - i.e. any developer can make a proposal - then we'll see what else is out there. Good gov't demands it.

  • Foodim

    I think the point about that tax abatement is very well put. It was rushed through for one developer who contributed to Graham's campaign and possibly the other approving councilmembers campaigns as well.

    This has never been a fair or up front process. the Church, the developer, and Graham's actions have led to a lot of mistrust. There is no open and sincere dialogue coming from these 3 entities.

    There is no reason that the Church cant be repurposed for something other than a hotel. And again, I will reiterate that the hotel portion will not be on the church site but on the citypaper building site on champlain st, which is currently in productive use. Also, there was a reference to the restoration of the interior of the church. The hotel project will not restore the Church to its original interior condition. The project will renovate the church and in many ways alter the interior configurations. I would like to see the alternate bids that were presented to the Church. If only they make them available to the public.

  • toomtide

    @foodim - I suspect you just don't like change. I'm not defending the political process to make this particular hotel happen, but your argument fails on two fronts:

    1. Using the fact of any existing property that's currently occupied as a reason to stop new development of larger buildings that improve density and the tax base makes no sense. There would never be any development. New York City would still have farms rather than skyscrapers because those farms were productive and occupied. What's happening here is a new development is bringing a more productive use to the area behind the church.

    2. Expecting the interior of any building to be restored to what it was when it had a different tenant (in this case, a church) is not logical. What would a new development do with all those seats? You should study some of the really interesting repurposing of lighthouses, churches, factories, and other structures that have found new life for new purposes than they were originally built.

  • Vic

    I've just returned from my second trip to Berlin, where a lot of people are consuming a lot of alcohol and they are consuming it all over the place. Curiously, I have not seen a single street scene that looks anywhere near as bad as Adams Morgan. Despite the fact that, to all appearances, there appears to be little or zoning restrictions or restrictions on the number of alcohol licenses. One sees bars and taverns embedded in streets and alleys were people live. Because there are so many such spaces, it's easy to get a seat and there is no need to be on the sidewalks.

    Actually, maybe that is the answer. Maybe our severely restricted zoning laws and alcoholic beverage laws have created the problem. They have forced all such establishments into one space (not spread out like they are in Berlin) and by limiting the number of establishments, the rules force them to be very crowded. Which leads to unruly behavior and forces a number of people out of the sidewalks.

    Maybe we should face the conclusion that own obsession with control has created this problem?

  • toomtide

    That's a good point, Vic. One of the great aspects of European and Australian urban development is that they allow a neighborhood tavern on a corner in an otherwise residential area.

    People here blow a gasket at the idea of not firmly separating residential and commercial, but in other countries these taverns become neighborhood gathering spots for the locals and do not reach the levels of concentrated pandimonium we see in DC when they all need to clump together due to regulations.

  • foodim

    Placing a hotel with 2 more bars at the corner of champlain st and euclid st does not help to spread out the bars, it just further concentrates them in an area that is pretty well saturated. How about we add a hotel and with several bars where the 7-eleven is on Wyoming and Columbia Rd? That 7-eleven is kinda nasty looking and attracts a lot of vagrants. And there's no other bars on that block. I doubt a 7-eleven contributes a lot of taxes to the city either.

    For all those claiming those of us opposed to the hotel project are NIMBY's and then saying they dont want 18th St to change or the other parts of Adams Morgan to change, all I can say is you are opening the flood gates to having your own NIMBY fight down the road by supporting this project. If you change the character of the neighborhood then no one area or block will be immune. If zoning laws and the land use section of the Comprehensive Plan can be disregarded at will then it can happen anywhere in the neighborhood, ie. Kalorama, Lanier Hieghts, and farther afield, i.e.Cleveland Park, Glover Park, Logan Circle, U St, etc....Cleveland Park is a great example. There are several high rise and mid-rise apartment buildings, a commercial center but no hotel for the "deprived" residents to have their visiting family stay at. And it would bring so many jobs.

    This is a land use issue and it comes down to precedent. If we create a climate in this city where developers are free to disregard zoning and land use law at will, in the name of economic development, then we should expect it to happen everywhere. Yes, I get that the economy is currently in a recession, but DC is in much better shape than most of the rest of the country, and these land use decisions will have repurcussions for the long-term, so we shouldn't be shortsighted when analyzing the merits of the proposed hotel development.

  • Foodim

    FYI: The church has publicly stated that they are NOT interested in preservation of the church. They have other goals that take precedence, and clearly one is getting the most money they can.

  • http://www.tinyurl.com/admohotel DC Feedback Team

    The DC Feedback Team has been collecting feedback from Adams Morgan residents and Ward 1 residents at-large about this highly contested hotel project.

    We want yours >>

    It is clear, the assertions put forward by the hotel developers have not been highly supported with a relevant chain of evidence. This makes it only harder for the community to get a real pulse of this project, fortunately or unfortunately, and thus why the opposition continues to mount.

    7 of 10 people we approach are unaware of what would be the biggest project in Adams Morgan history.

    Invite your friends to submit their feedback >>

  • Leann

    Thanks for the article, and great photos, but try nine months of dust and debris, not three months. This construction began in front of my store (Meeps on 18th at the corner of California) back in February, I believe, and was scheduled to be completed before the end of summer 2011. It has been devastating for business.

  • Admomaven

    @Leann - The impact of the 18th Street construction on businesses and residents alike has undeniably been significant but I don't believe the project is behind schedule. It began in February 2011 and according to the DDOT website is scheduled to be completed in May 2012. See: http://www.adamsmorganstreetscapeproject.com

    Also this construction contract, unlike most others, has incentives and penalties built into it. For every day before May 13th 2012 that they finish there is a $5,000 award up to a maximum of 50 days or $250,000. Likewise for every day past May 13, 2012 they finish work, there is a $5,000 penalty. Civil Construction is trying to finish in late March/early April to reap the most of the bonus award that they can.

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