- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2003

The Phillips Collection is proceeding with plans to expand the museum by purchasing an adjacent apartment building and evicting the tenants.

Eugene Peters, 53, had lived in the three-story apartment building on 21st Street NW for six months with his girlfriend when he found his belongings waiting outside on returning home from work Tuesday morning. He insisted he was not told by anyone that he needed to move out.

“Man, I work the night shift, you know?” Mr. Peters said, who said he paid his rent on time and was a good tenant. “When I get home about 10 a.m., all my stuff is just sitting out on the curb. It came as a shock to me. We weren’t given any type of warning or anything to move.”

Officials with the Phillips Collection said tenants in the 15 apartments had been informed of their impending evictions, pointing out that many of the tenants had heeded the warning and moved. With Mr. Peters’ eviction, only two apartments remain occupied.

Signs throughout the building point to the Phillips giving residents fair notice of eviction. Aside from the building being nearly empty, fliers for moving companies and apartment hunters were posted in the building, and abandoned clothing and furniture lined the hallways.

Additionally, posted in the lobby was a copy of a legal document stating that a stay of the right of possession for the tenants had been vacated. The document was dated May 21.

“[The tenants] were supposed to be out by March 3,” said Rich Rutledge, deputy director at the Phillips Collection. “We gave them the 180-day notice, not to mention two chances to purchase the apartment. The tenant has first right of refusal in purchasing the property. Most of them clearly sold their rights to a developer. Others just passed up the opportunity.”

In January 2001, the Phillips Collection announced plans to buy the apartment building and tear it down to construct the Center for the Study and Appreciation of Modern Art. Neighborhood residents contested the proposal, concerned that the increased traffic would cause logjams in the neighboring streets and alleys, as reported by The Washington Times.

The Phillips and neighborhood residents resolved the difference in June 2001, as the size of the expansion was scaled back by about 8,000 square feet.

Once an agreement was reached, neighbors said some tenants had began vacating their apartments.

Eric Rome, the lawyer for the tenants’ association, said that while the tenants would have received limited notice of their deadline, there is little doubt that they were aware of the Phillips’ intentions.

“There was a series of 180-day notices issued,” Mr. Rome said. “We challenged [the Phillips] in Superior Court and lost; then we appealed. May 21 was the date of the stay being vacated. It is true that the actual date [of eviction] is given a day or two beforehand, but the tenants generally knew their time was limited.”

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