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It’s been five months since the Office of Planning firmly denied Milton McGinty‘s request to demolish the Takoma Theater, his long-shuttered venue on 4th and Butternut Streets NW. Since we spoke in early June, he first insisted that he would sue in Superior Court to reverse the decision, and then backed off that promise. “I really don’t want to spend the money filing a suit and then have no money left to build the building,” McGinty told me in late September.
In the mean time, the 87-year-old building has fallen even deeper into disrepair. In a mid-August letter to interested parties—including the Takoma Theater Conservancy, which has been trying to buy and renovate the theater for years now—McGinty said that he would be putting no more money into maintenance. Then came the heavy rains, which didn’t help the mold that makes it hard to breathe inside the theater. According to a visitor in September, there’s also a resident cat.
Until about a decade ago, nothing would have forced McGinty to do anything with the property, as long as he didn’t actively knock down the theater. But under D.C.’s “demolition by neglect” statute, he’s actually forbidden from allowing the building to fall so far into disrepair that it’s no longer salvageable. The Conservancy’s Loretta Neumann knows that the more the roof leaks and the mold festers, the more expensive it will be to renovate.
Neumann has convened a meeting tonight with Councilmember Muriel Bowser, the Historic Preservation Office, and DCRA to figure out what to do next. It’s at 7:00 p.m. at the Takoma Education Center.