Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Good News, Very Bad News

The new Long View Gallery, set to open in July on Ninth Street NW directly across from the Washington Convention Center. Rendering courtesy of Long View Gallery.

There's a little bit of good news for those living in the Convention Center area. In July, the Long View Gallery will move from its location at 1309 9th Street NW all the way to 1243 9th Street NW, an eyesore vacant property just below N Street. They'll renovate the building shortly, which will provide the gallery with a significantly larger space. ReNewShaw has a nice write up and there's also a blurb in yesterday's Washington Business Journal. Congrats to the owners, Andrew Haley and Suzanne Zylonis, who opened Long View Gallery in 2000, and gallery director Drew Porterfield, who have again demonstrated their commitment to a revitalized Shaw. I've included the gallery's press release following this post.

I'm wondering what the Long View owners will think as they continue to skim through the Washington Business Journal to learn that the Marriott Marquis Convention Center Hotel's future is very much in doubt. The elusive promise of a major convention center hotel is what led some small business owners to open in Shaw and both businesses and residents hope that the area's fortunes would take a positive turn. Now, it appears that the project was unable to obtain financing and the city's commitment to provide 25% public financing (to the tune of $187 million) is not enough to get going. They want more, but CFO Natwar Gandhi , who also serves on the convention center board, says no. "To be very blunt about it I was very clear in saying to them that if you were to borrow $750 million that would put us way beyond the 12 percent cap we have envisioned for the city...and I cannot be a party to that," Gandhi said. Looks like we may be dealing with the site as a place for illegal billboards and homeless excrement a little while longer.

[UPDATE, June 4: In a
Washington Post article, Gandhi does a bit of a turn around: Gandhi said he plans to work with the city's economic development officials to come up with a way to build the hotel within the city's borrowing limits. "I am for the hotel. I want to make it happen," Gandhi said. ]

Speaking of stalled projects, does anyone know what's the deal with the renovation of the O Street Market, including the new Giant -- is it on track for groundbreaking next summer - and why are we waiting another year?

In April, what was supposed to be the end of a decade-long saga to move this project forward seemed to clear its final hurdle, with the DC Council approving $1 million from parking meter increases and $1.5 million from the economic development committee’s budget to pay architectural, engineering and other pre-development costs. In the meantime, Whole Foods (then Freshfields) in Logan Circle opened, Safeway at CityVista came along... even renovation of the Georgetown Safeway is already underway.

What perplexes me most about what is now known as the "City Market at O" project is -- do we even know what's going there? Of course, there is the new mega Giant, and then there is to be senior housing, a range of affordable housing, and some market-rate units. But what about the remainder of the retail space? What about the "boutique hotel"? Are there memoranda of understandings or other agreements in place to fill the space?

When the government holds RFP's, it ordinarily requires bidders to provide such information, for example, with respect to the project at 5th and I, NW, next to the 'ol Fun Fair Video. But as far as I can tell, there's no details available for the anchor to Shaw's future.

My concern: let's not have a repeat of the convention center debacle, please!

Long View Gallery Acquires New Space in Currently Vacant Shaw Building
Renovation Will Quadruple Exhibition Space and Enhance Framing,Events Services

Washington, D.C. – [May 28, 2009] – As part of its continuing efforts to support the regional arts community and to contribute to the Shaw Neighborhood’s renaissance, the Long View Gallery will relocate to a currently vacant building directly across from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center at 1234 Ninth Street, NW. The gallery’s new space will undergo major renovation, more than quadrupling the gallery’s exhibition capacity, enhancing its custom framing and special event offerings, and making it one of the area’s largest art collectives.

“With many other businesses closing, we have been able to swim against the economic tide, demonstrating that art is indeed a great investment. After three successful years in Shaw, Long View Gallery simply outgrew its current location,” said gallery director Drew Porterfield.

“Thanks to Douglas Development, we were able to secure a building with great potential in a location that is impossible to beat—half a block south on Ninth Street from our current location, directly across from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and closer to existing and planned fine restaurants,” Porterfield said. “Shaw has been a wonderful home, and we are thrilled to contribute to its renaissance.”

The building was previously used as an auto showroom and, most recently, as a vending machine warehouse, but it has sat empty for several years. Although the building’s architecture is stunning, with soaring ceilings and concrete floors, it requires a significant renovation before the gallery takes occupancy later this year. The gallery’s renovation, designed by local architect Will Couch, will maintain the raw feel of the building while transforming it into a premier gallery space.

The new gallery will occupy the southern portion of the building, comprised of nearly 5,000 quare feet, more than quadrupling the square footage of the Long View Gallery’s current location.

In its new venue, Long View Gallery will continue to show and support regional, contemporary artists as well as offer fine art custom framing. Joining Long View Gallery is Special Events Director, Suzi Molak, whose expertise in the events industry will be a great asset to the company. Porterfield said the gallery is finalizing a more frequent exhibition schedule and is preparing to announce several major new artists whose works will join the gallery in time for a planned grand opening after Labor Day.

Long View Gallery was founded in 2000 by Andrew Haley and Suzanne Zylonis in Sperryville, Virginia (about 75 miles west of Washington). The gallery quickly built a loyal following with local art patrons, including William Waybourn and Craig Spaulding, who partnered with Haley and Zylonis in 2006 to open a second location of Long View Gallery in the District. The Sperryville gallery showcases many Virginia artists and the surrounding countryside’s bucolic or pastoral settings.

Long View Gallery will remain open at its current location until the end of July, with an expected grand opening in the new space in September. The gallery will post updates and images of the renovation in progress on their blog at

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