The Corner Forum
Saturday, Feb. 8, 2003
Issue #18

Talk Continues on Atlas Theater

By Marc Borbely, 536 13th St. NE

Representatives of the H Street Community Development Corporation and the Fannie Mae Foundation recently asked a group of seven residents of Near Northeast how they would like the Atlas Theater, at 1333 H St. NE, to be used. A "focus group" meeting was held on Tuesday, Jan. 28, at the CDC offices at 501 H St. NE.

Four of the residents — Laverne Law, Robert Pittman, ANC Commissioner Wanda Stevens-Harris (6A01) and ANC Commissioner Jessica Ward (6A06) — had been invited to the forum by Eric Jones, project manager for the CDC. The three others — ANC Commissioner Cody Rice (6A03), David Bell and me — were invited by Ms. Ward and were permitted by Mr. Jones to stay for the meeting even though he expressed displeasure to Ms. Ward for inviting others to what was meant to be a small, focus group meeting only for those who had originally been invited.

Also present were Greg Taylor, senior director for the Fannie Mae Foundation's D.C. initiatives, the Foundation's Olive Akhigbe, William Barrow, executive director of the CDC, Yulanda Queen of the CDC and one other CDC staff member.

The Fannie Mae Foundation's Mr. Taylor facilitated the meeting. The first part of the meeting focused on H Street in general. Mr. Taylor said the foundation was trying to understand how investments in the arts would affect economic development on H Street.

The second part of the meeting focused on how the space at the Atlas Theater might best be used.

William Barrow, executive director of the CDC, said he thought that Jane Lang, whose nonprofit Atlas Performing Arts Center owns the theater, might be open to amending her plans for the theater, which were described in the Dec. 7 issue of the Corner Forum.

The CDC's Mr. Jones, when asked about the meeting yesterday, also said he thought Ms. Lang's plans, which are meant to be implemented over the next year or two, might be flexible. "I assume, over a year or two, things could change, if people wanted it to," he said.

Ms. Lang herself, however, expressed surprise when I told her about the discussion. "I absolutely do not know what they're thinking," she said. She said her plans for the Atlas Theater remain firm. She also said she didn't understand why she hadn't been invited to the meeting. "It's just a very unusual way to go about things."

The CDC owned the theater before selling it to Ms. Lang and her husband, Paul Sprenger, who have since donated it to the Atlas Performing Arts Center, a nonprofit organization they created. §