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Tenants of the Museum Square and Mount Vernon Plaza buildings located downtown will travel by bus to Virginia on Thursday morning to demonstrate against alleged efforts to evict them by landlord Bush Companies, local activists say.
The protest—organized in part by pro-equality groups ONE DC and API Resistance—will kick off at 11 a.m. at 2000 Clarendon Boulevard, the location of the Williamsburg development company’s Arlington office. Museum Square and Mount Vernon Plaza house hundreds of low-income residents, many of whom identify as Chinese and black. Over the past couple of years, however, they’ve faced the threat of displacement in an increasingly expensive area of the city.
According to the tenants and their representatives, Bush Companies “has engaged in numerous intimidation tactics” to move out residents and make way for more-profitable developments by taking then to court and trying to disqualifying them from affordable-housing programs. On Thursday, a delegation of tenants will present the firm with a “letter of demands,” after which the larger group will hold a rally across the street, Marybeth Onyeukwu of ONE DC explains.
“The goal is not to cause havoc or get arrested, it’s just to have our presence felt,” she says. Roughly 60 are anticipated.
Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Bush Companies Regional Vice President Andrew Viola said he had not heard about the protest, adding that he won’t be in town that day on account of a business trip. (“Hey, it’s a free country,” he said of the demonstration.) Viola declined to comment on the tenants’ accusations of Bush’s attempts to displace them.
The tenants and their representatives delivered the following two-page letter to Bush Companies today, demanding the firm keep 63 units in Mount Vernon Plaza affordable and “renew the Section 8 contract at Museum Square, stop the proposed demolition of these 302 homes, and offer a fair price to the tenants to buy their homes” under the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, or TOPA. Previously, Bush Companies assessed Museum Square at $250 million.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery