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ANC Panel Raises Concerns Over Giving Barrel House Historic Status

by Tim Regan September 25, 2015 at 10:40 am 0

Talks to grant an imperiled Logan Circle liquor store’s facade a historic status may have hit some preliminary bumps in the road.

A panel of representatives and ANC 2F commissioners weighed concerns and asked questions about the idea during a community development committee meeting at the National City Christian Church (5 Thomas Circle NW) last night.

Commissioner Pepin Tuma, 2F-03, made his case before the panel. He said that, although the owner of the building at 1341 14th Street NW and Barrel House Liquor owner Mesfun Ghebrelulare — who also goes by M.G. — are discussing ways to keep or move the facade, he’d like to have a plan in case those talks fall through.

“A lot of the members of the neighborhood and myself personally are interested in … preserving the facade of this building within the parameters of D.C.’s historic preservation law,” Tuma said. “The important thing to do is to recognize the historic landmark of this facade and begin the process of working with the D.C. government and with neighbors to ensure that, if this is what folks want, we have all our ducks lined up in a row.”

But members of the ANC’s committee had concerns about granting historic status to the building when Ghebrelulare has already said he plans to move next door.

“I’m concerned because … if that happens, are we going to have two liquor stores side-by-side?” said Helen Kramer, at-large representative. Kramer also noted that granting the property a historic status would mean that the barrel could not be “chopped off and moved somewhere else.”

“I hear your concerns,” responded Tuma. “I think we would obviously like to minimize confusion to customers and the neighborhood about where Barrel House is. I think that’s a very good point.”

But Kramer reiterated her point. “I’m just very concerned that if this is designated as a historic landmark, what are they going to do to the property?” she said. “The sensible use would be a liquor store. I don’t think it’s desirable to have two side-by-side liquor stores.”

Other concerns raised by the panel included whether the building’s facade truly is historic and whether it fits with 14th Street’s historic theme of being “automobile row.”

“The facade, which I think represents elements that people are really looking to preserve, was built in the early 1950s and has the historic … roadside style of architecture style of development that is rare in Washington D.C.,” Tuma said.

“If it is understood to be an example of roadside architecture, it could conceivably fit within the historic district as automobile row,” he added. “But that’s certainly above my pay grade. Everything is above your pay grade when you’re an ANC commissioner.”

In an interview with Borderstan, Tuma stressed that the committee’s discussion was necessary to move forward with a concrete ANC proposal.

“Those concerns that were raised in there, about confusion and potential trademark issues, are significant issues with which we’ll be concerned,” Tuma said. “But none of those independently mean that we should not investigate and concern ourselves with the historic nature of the facade.”

“I’ve shopped there for 17 years, maybe longer, and it’s a piece of history” Tuma said. “Hopefully there’s a way to preserve the architectural history and ensure that M.G. and Barrel House have another 20 years of success in the neighborhood.”

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