Eviction

THE AUTHOR IN DUPONT CIRCLE IN THE LATE 90s

Sam Smith, 1999- After 23 years at the same address TPR got word that it will have to move by October 1.

A huge developer is buying key portions of the Connecticut Avenue north of Dupont Circle as well as some retail buildings in Woodley Park. TPR, American Friends Service Committee, the Village Voice Washington office, various architects, and the News Room are among the establishments soon to be economically cleansed from their buildings. There are also reports of major purchases along M Street in Georgetown.

Said to be behind the Dupont Circle purchases is the Starwood Financial Group, the largest real estate holding company in the world with $2 billion in assets. It controls, among other things, Caesar’s Palace and the Sheraton Hotel chain. All the Connecticut Avenue purchases were made swiftly and shortly thereafter lease terminations and a tripling of rents were announced.

The move means the destruction of one of the funkiest business blocks in the city. At one point, 17 architects found haven in this block as did assorted other livers on the edge. Our landlord, Mike Heller, was often found standing on Connecticut Avenue passing the time of day with tenants and others as he patiently awaited something to fix. When his daughter was younger, he sold Girl Scout cookies throughout his five building complex.

A couple of years before moving into this building, I wrote a book. One of the things I said was this:

“We now comprehend the hazards of blithely pouring DDT over crops, slashing through treelands, or fouling the air. But we still act as thought we can, without penalty, wipe out neighborhoods, force mass migrations, rip out favorite meeting places for people, or tear down centers of communications, culture and commerce that are as important to a community as a marsh is to a flyway.”

Some years back, actor Edward Woodward speculated that eventually there would be no one living in our cities except corporations. Washington seems to be leading the way.

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