by Diana Kohn
In 1921, extravagant headlines in the Takoma Record announced the construction of the Takoma Theatre on the corner of Butternut and Fourth Streets NW. Today this building is at the center of a controversy over demolition versus renovation.
The battle continues in the wake of a decision on May 21 by the D. C. Mayor’s agent in the Office of Planning barring the owner from razing the Takoma Theatre to make way for 43 apartments. Milton McGinty, who purchased the theater in 1983, failed to convince the Mayor’s agent that he had grounds for a demolition permit.
The decision keeps alive plans by the Takoma Theatre Conservancy, a community group, to resurrect the building as a space for local arts performances.
McGinty now says he intends to take the matter to court, seeking to
overturn the historic preservation rules that protect the status of
buildings like the Theatre. For much of the last century the 700-seat
theatre brought Hollywood movies to the neighborhood. When the movies
stopped in 1980, McGinty converted the space into a venue for live
theater, though with limited success.
By the late 1990s, McGinty concluded that replacing the structure with
apartments was a better idea. But his plans ran afoul of the Historic
Landmark and Historic District Protection Act of 1978. The Historic
Preservation Review Board twice denied McGinty’s petition to knock down
the building, setting up the hearing that led to last month’s decision.