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Remember back in February, when it looked like the Municipal Deli was going to be kicked out of its Reeves Center space at 14th and U Street NW for underpayment of rent? Well, owner Fitwi Tekeste caught a break, and is still operating, while the Department of Real Estate Services prepares to issue a solicitation for the lease.
Meanwhile, though, Muni Deli’s neighbor—-the Emma Mae Gallery, run by longtime U Streeter Sandra Butler-Truesdale—-will be leaving in September. She took over the space four years ago from Ben’s Bakery, and has been showcasing local memorabilia, rent-free, ever since. Along with Tekeste’s underpayment, DRES caught the arrangement as part of a District-wide lease audit last year (which has also resulted in some new fast food places at Judiciary Square) and issued Butler-Truesdale her first notice to vacate about nine months ago.
What’s going in that valuable first-floor 14th Street real estate? Not a swank new bar! The District Department of Transportation wants the space as a kind of customer service drop-in center for things like processing bus tickets for school children, handing out bike helmets, etc. They’d hoped to be open by the beginning of the school year, but Butler-Truesdale, in the words of a DRES spokesman, “needed more time to vacate.”
She’s not going too far away. The Emma Mae Gallery will reopen at the National Association of Colored Womens Clubs at 1601 R Street NW—-not quite as visible a location, but still open to the public.
“I had a good run there, and I want to be thankful to DRES for allowing us to be there,” Butler-Truesdale said. “We don’t really want to leave that area, because the history we provide basically covers that 14th Street corridor. But I realize that things change.”