Commenters have beeen tearing it up over at 14th and T: The Good News, Bad News Edition, many of them in support of Diner/Tryst/Open City owner Constantine Stavropoulos and comedy club impresario John Xereas, who had hoped—-with the help of Dave Chappelle and others—-to develop local businesses inside the former Church of the Reformer. That plan now looks even more like a dream deferred to Minneapolis-based furniture outfit Room & Board.
Blame the “big-box mentality” if you like, but here’s what really happened, according to Wayne Dickson, who, as principal partner at Blake Dickson Real Estate Services, represents the owners of the building: “Whoever writes the first check gets the space. That’s the beginning and the end of the story….They [the local business owners] didn’t have the money and had no assurance they could get the money.”
Dickson is not unsympathetic to Stavropoulos and John X. He was the one who helped Stavropoulos move into Woodley Park in what is now Open City. They’re friends and he says he has high esteem for both men. But that doesn’t mean Four Points, his clients and the owners of the building, are making a bad decision.
“Think of yourself in their position,” he says. “They have a building that’s been vacant for three years and has a significant debt service every month….You’ve got this company coming in saying, ‘Here is a check’ and you’ve got other interested parties saying, ‘Give me 60 to 90 days and let me see if I can get the money.’ Let’s say you give them 90 days and in the meantime, Room & Board walks. Heads roll over something like that. People lose their jobs.”
Stavropoulos and Co. will have to find another space and Dickson says he’s happy to help them do that. He has one spot already in mind, the former home of the Central Union Mission at 14th and R. But Stavropoulos has poured a good deal of energy into getting people on board with the project at 14th and T—-“He really worked hard. He walked the streets talking to people,” says Dickson, who has lived within three blocks of 14th and T for 25 years.
But Room & Board is coming. The chief financial officers is in town today lining things up. He and Dickson met with Councilmember Jack Evans today, partially based on the anti-chain reaction from the neighborhood. Evans’ position, according to Dickson, is that government has no part in the sale of the building.
Dickson is quick to defend Room & Board. It’s “not some giant big-box store,” he says. It has seven stores nationwide, the closest being in SoHo in NYC. “It’s going to have a tremendous regional draw to this neighborhood and I think that is a win-win.”
The store, he says, will likely open about two years from now. An architect has already been hired.
(City Paper photograph by Pilar Vergara)