HPA No. 1980-156 (In re. Washington Lodge NO. 15, BPO Elks)
- HPA Number: 1980-156
- Case Name: Application to demolish 919 H Street, N.W. (The Washington Lodge No. 15, BPO Elks), Square 374, Lot 4
- Location of Property: 919 H Street, N.W. (The Washington Lodge No. 15, BPO Elks), Square 374, Lot 4
- Date of Decision: April 11, 1980
- Type of Case/Type of Permit Sought: Demolition
- Disposition: Granted
- Date of Case Summary: 11/26/2014
Summary of Decision:
The Government of the District of Columbia (the “Applicant”) sought a permit to demolish The Washington Lodge No. 15, BPO Elks (the “Elks’ Lodge”), a property it owned located at 919 H Street, N.W., to allow for construction of the Washington Convention Center. The Elks’ Lodge, a Category III Landmark on the District of Columbia’s Inventory of Historic Sites, was a private, non-residential building built in the Beaux-Arts style in 1906. The Applicant proposed to build in its place a new civil exhibition and meeting facility that, at a cost of $98.7 million, would be the City’s first building and development project of that scale. The Mayor’s Agent granted the requested demolition permit, holding that the Convention Center proposal was necessary in the public interest as a project of special merit because it promised to provide social and other benefits having a high priority for community services. The decision stressed the economic and social benefits that the City would derive from the new Convention Center and the one-of-a-kind nature of the building project.
Mayor’s Agent – Procedural:
- Under Section 5(h) of the Historic Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978, the Applicant must demonstrate the ability to complete a project of special merit.
- Greater weight is attached to the testimony of a witness with extensive experience in the area about which he or she testifies. Here, the Mayor’s agent stated that the testimony of the party in opposition’s primary witness was entitled to less weight than other experts because his knowledge about convention centers was based on “a part-time interest that he has had only in the last three years.”
Necessary in the public interest:
The Mayor’s Agent held that the Applicant’s proposed demolition of the Elks’ Lodge was necessary in the public interest in order to allow the construction of a project of special merit.
Project of Special Merit – Social or other Benefits having a High Priority for Community Services:
The Mayor’s Agent concluded that the “single most important feature of the Convention Center [would] be its economic development role.” When completed, the Convention Center would play a central role in the revitalization of downtown Washington D.C. by offering substantially increased tax revenues and business receipts and creating approximately 4,000 new jobs (mostly semi-skilled and service industry jobs). The Convention Center was projected to attract a net gain of delegates, exhibitors to the city, increasing the number of overnight visitors to fill 3,000 new hotel rooms in the District of Columbia and would also provide the needed space for local functions like shows, sports events and civic gatherings.
The Mayor’s Agent found that the construction of the Convention Center was widely supported by the community including the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2C, civic groups, area churches and businesses (Washington Board of Realtors, Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade and Washington Gas Light Company). Furthermore, the Mayor’s Agent, in her findings of fact, noted that the District of Columbia had entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the National Capital Planning Commission and Advisory Council on Historic Preservation whereby the District agreed to remove certain items of historical interest from the façade of the Elks’ Lodge for relocation or storage. In addition, the District of Columbia agreed to undertake an archeological survey of the site on which the Convention Center was to be built (at an expense of $75,000) and to document the properties to be demolished in accordance with the instructions and directions of the Historic American Buildings Survey.
Under the Act, the Applicant must demonstrate the ability to complete a project of special merit. The Mayor’s Agent held that the Applicant had made the requisite demonstration of its ability to complete the construction of the Washington Convention Center within the schedule time frame and cost limitations. The Applicant owned Squares 344, 373 and 374 (on which the Elks’ Lodge was located); all of the buildings located within such Squares would need to be demolished in order to construct the Convention Center. The Government of the District of Columbia had received Congressional funding authorization for the project for the two upcoming fiscal years and the City Council had approved funding for the following year. The Applicant presented potential plans to cover costs with taxes in the case of a revenue shortfall. Direct spin-off tax revenues associated with the Convention Center were expected to provide $20.7 million a year in new net tax revenues to the City.
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