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The older gentleman exiting the permit center with a thick roll of plans looks like he might have been through this a time or two.

Indeed he has: “You know who you’re talking to? You talking to someone who’s been doing this since 1958.” In fact, he says, he’s the original architect of record for Ben’s Chili Bowl, the U Street institution founded the year he started in business. He declined to give his name—-you don’t spend 50 years as an architect in this town, apparently, by pissing off the authorities.

The newfangled permit center, he says, “is more technologically advanced,” but in terms of manpower, it’s no better than it was. Problem is, he says, that the center has stations for each type of approval—-electrical, mechanical, zoning, WASA, Certificate of Occupancy, and so forth—-and many of them will go unstaffed for a time, ruining the whole flow of the operation. “They need a person at every desk,” he says.

Still, he says, “They’re doing the best they can!”

Especially, he says, considering the “construction renaissance” in this town. In the ’80s, he says, there wasn’t half the traffic there is now: “The volume of people waiting here has tripled.”

The man says he spends an average of three hours here on each visit. Today, he came to get some plans approved—-soil erosion plans. He’s leaving after only an hour and a half—-but, alas, his plans didn’t get approved.