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D.C. officials unveil plans to transform Ward 5

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2014

D.C. officials unveiled a plan Wednesday that they hope will lay the groundwork to transform the District's Ward 5 and change its reputation as a dumping ground for businesses other neighborhoods don't want.

The ward, located mostly in the Northeast quadrant of the city, is home to 1,030 acres of industrially zoned land — half of the industrial zoned lots in the entire city.

It has served as a focal point for businesses that need to steer clear of densely populated areas due to zoning requirements. But that special status has attracted businesses that neighborhood groups have deemed objectionable, such as large nightclubs, strip clubs, trash transfer stations, and marijuana cultivation centers.

D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie, who represents the ward, said he wants more diversity among the businesses in the area. And while he says he doesn't oppose outright the presence of nightclubs in his ward, he notes that he has taken steps to prevent more from setting up shop.

"To the extent that the nightclubs are good neighbors who make sure they have security in place, who make sure they have some sort of operation to clean up afterwards, who go to the civic association meetings and interact with [Advisory Neighborhood Commission members], then I think those are the types of the establishments the community is willing to work with," said Mr. McDuffie, a Democrat. "Do we want an influx of new establishments of that type? No, not really."

As a result of opposition by himself and residents to more nightclubs, Mr. McDuffie said several potential nightclubs have been blocked from opening, including one that was denied permits this month.

On Aug. 7, the city's alcohol board put the kibosh on plans to open a 1,300-person capacity nightclub called Pulse in Mr. McDuffie's ward. The club sought to open directly across the street from other large-capacity clubs nestled along Queens Chapel Road, including the strip joint Stadium Club, concert hall Echostage and nightclub The Scene.

According to the Alcohol Beverage Control Board's ruling to deny the license, the club would have displaced a parking lot that the 30,000-square-foot concert hall Echostage currently uses for patron parking and exacerbated the already strained parking resources in the area. A liquor board investigator testified that if the club were to open, there would likely be crowds of 5,000 people coming to the neighborhood on a regular basis.

Noting that the neighborhood had neither the capacity to accommodate the parking needs of all those people and the strain the additional club would add to police resources and the community, the liquor board denied the nightclub's request for a license.

Mr. McDuffie has also written the liquor board to oppose the licensing of two other potential nightclubs that were denied licenses in 2012, and to oppose the renewal of a license to Stadium Club. Another nightclub, the storied Love megaclub, closed in November and was sold at a bankruptcy auction to developer Douglas Jemal this year.

At Wednesday's unveiling of the plan to transform Ward 5 industrial space, which was held at New Columbia Distillers in the Northeast Ivy City neighborhood, Mr. McDuffie said he hopes to see more creative uses of the land and more amenities that residents of the ward will want to use.

A 145-page glossy document that details the vision shows renderings of buildings that would encase stinky trash transfer stations to limit bad smells, bike lanes added alongside current roadways, and envisions the creation of an art and media business hub.

"It's not an effort to get rid of businesses that are doing good work and employing residents," Mr. McDuffie said of the plan. "It's just an effort to diversify, to re-envision, and rethink how we use industrial land in the city."

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