Fight the Tower: Blum and Franco convinced Comcast to remove an eyesore.
Towering Accomplishment: Battling Comcast and Winning
If there were a list entitled “Corporate Behemoths You Don’t Want to Mess With,” Comcast might claim the top spot.
Type “Comcast and hate” into Google and 2.15 million results pop up. The first offers “A new reason to hate Comcast.” Another has a six-minute video called “Screw you COMCAST! I hate you!” There’s also an official “I hate Comcast” Facebook page.
Of course, many of these angry people are just battling for the Internet and cable service they’ve already paid for. Developers David Franco and Jeff Blum are among the few and the brave who purposely picked a fight with Comcast when they weren’t owed anything. And, foolhardy as it sounds, they actually won.
Franco and Blum are nearing completion on View 14, their 185-apartment building at 14th Street and Florida Avenue NW, right next to an old Comcast signal receiver.
As the two shepherded the project, they decided the Comcast tower was too aesthetically repulsive to remain within eyesight of their building’s tenants, some of whom would be paying well over $4,000 monthly for their units. They settled on a vision in which the tower simply didn’t exist. They began moving through the city’s zoning approval process. And then they had to go to Comcast.
“It was a very complex endeavor,” says Franco. “We rolled the dice on it. They really didn’t have an incentive to move it. It was just perseverance.”
He envisioned demolition of the current tower—which spans the height of the entire building—and construction of a smaller one right on top of View 14 with the same capabilities. That way, none of his residents would see the monstrosity and Comcast could still operate like normal. That seemed to him like a win for both sides.
Franco says he couldn’t get the company to return his calls for nearly six months. Throughout the negotiations, certain high level people at the company vehemently opposed the proposition, he says.
Eventually, the two parties brokered an agreement; Comcast spokesperson Alisha Martin did not respond to questions on whether the company was opposed early on and why it was game in the end.
Franco suggests: “I think they would say—and this is what they said, although it took a month for each word in the sentence to come out—We would like to do our part. We recognize the community is changing. And we recognize the land use could probably be put toward something better. So if there is an opportunity to do something here, that makes economical sense for us and you, then we’d like to do it.”
The negotiation process took about a year and a half, with Comcast finally settling on a $3.2 million deal allowing Level 2 Development to buy Comcast’s small corner lot and pay costs associated with moving the signal receiver, says Franco.
If you’re worried about missing your favorite HBO show or losing your already spotty wireless connection, don’t be.
“The move of the tower should not impact service for any of our local customers,” writes Martin in an e-mail to Washington City Paper.
“Comcast uses it primarily as a backup tower to receive signals from local television broadcasters in the Washington, D.C. [area] (though the signals are generally received through other locations, this tower serves as an alternate reception site should it be needed).”
Martin said the company anticipates that the move will be completed “early next year.”
Sounds about right. After nearly five years in development, View 14 will welcome its first occupants around Thanksgiving, says Franco.
Right now, construction workers are still bounding up steps in the building’s lobby, and some units’ hardwood floors are still obscured with protective coverings while final touches are completed. Franco says every unit will be ready by mid-December—with unobstructed vistas pretty soon after.
This story will appear in this week’s issue of the Washington City Paper.
First image by Darrow Montgomery. Second image provided by Level 2 Development