The Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) announced Saturday it will hold a demonstration on Tuesday evening protesting the Republic of Congo’s “willful destruction of the front lawn and several large trees during renovation of its new embassy on 16th Street.”
The protest will take place Tuesday November 15, from 5 to 7 pm, in front of the Embassy of the Republic of Congo at 1720 16th Street NW. According to the DCCA, members at the November 7 monthly membership meeting voted unanimously in support of a board resolution demanding the replacement of the lawn and of the three mature trees.
According to the DCCA news release, “We decided on a course of political action,” said DCCA Preservation Committee Chair and Second Vice President Charles Ellis, “after formal complaints from our colleagues at the Dupont Circle Conservancy and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (2B) proved not to have the desired effect.”
The Congo (Brazzaville) purchased the 1894 Toutorsky Mansion earlier this year. In January ANC 2B voted 8-0 to protest the Congo’s plans to turn the mansion into a chancery-embassy location. Commissioner Jack Jacobson (2B04), whose district includes the property, told Borderstan in January that the resolution of disapproval passed after the commission reviewed photos of the Republic of Congo property at 16th Street and Colorado Avenue NW. The photos show serious maintenance problems with the property.
The Congo property, at the corner of 16th Street and Riggs Place NW, is in the Sixteenth Street Historic District. According to DC tax records, the previous owners bought the property in 2001 for $2.2 million and it was assessed by the city at $4.5 million when the Congo government was negotiating its purchase. The previous owners started a limited bed and breakfast operation soon after purchase and sought to expand in 2004, but were denied by the BZA.
Under DC law, front lawns are city property, but Embassy properties are considered foreign soil and exempt from DC law. Knowing this, neighborhood officials had specifically requested that no changes be made to the historic greensward. The sale was approved by the Board of Zoning Adjustment’s Foreign Missions Department only after Congo agreed.