City Paper Widget

Friday, June 27, 2014

TENAC Joins Opposition to St. Thomas' Parish Episcopal Church Project

Last night (June 26), the DC Tenants Advocacy Coalition (TENAC) voted, without seeming opposition, to support a group opposing a proposed multi-story apartment building on Church Street. The proposed building will go on the space currently occupied by St. Thomas' Parish Episcopal Church (1772 Church Street NW). The funds raised by this project will help St. Thomas' Parish build a new church on the unoccupied land they own next door, which has functioned as a park for over 40 years.

The current church entrance
The complex backstory to this project is chronicled in part in SALM blog posts of May 29 and February 28.

TENAC Chairman Jim McGrath introduced the subject by saying the St. Thomas' Parish project had been "placed wrong" and had caused "hardship, heartache, and turmoil". McGrath has previously spoken at meetings of those opposed to the project.

McGrath introduced Andrew Ellenbogen, of the group Neighbors of St. Thomas Church DC, which opposes the development. He gave some background on the controversy. St. Thomas Parish Church was an early supporter of the campaign against AIDS and for the LGBT community. After the church burned down in 1970, he said, the leadership of the church said "we're going to eschew re-building" and that they were going to "leave this park as a ministry".

"Times can change," he continued.

The church had decided on this project and was "closed off to dialogue," Ellenbogan said. The church had shown a "failure to respect historic preservation."

There will be legally-mandated affordable housing units in the project, under a DC program called "inclusionary housing".

"Inclusionary housing just allows the buildings to be higher," Ellenbogan said.

The building was a "new modern colossus," he said.

Ellenbogan commented on working with Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle.

"The ANC, that's been an incredible challenge," he said.

In conclusion, he called the church "a rock in the community".

McGrath returned to the podium and presented a "very simple resolution", which expressed "opposition to the high-rise condo as a serious disruption".

Of the roughly 70 people in the room at the time, all people who voted (much more than half) were in favor. Some people did not raise their hands or otherwise show support when called upon to do so. But no one indicated they were against the resolution, nor were there any abstentions.

Former DC City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Carol Schwartz was in the audience. I could not see if she voted. She made no comment on the proposal.

DC City Councilmembers Jim Graham (D-Ward One) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large) were scheduled to appear at the meeting, which was billed as an "open board meeting" by TENAC. Graham and Bonds were not present at the time the vote was taken.

Coverage of this story has also appeared in the blogs Greater Greater Washington and District Source.

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