by Borderstan.com December 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm 1,968 4 Comments

Republic of Congo Embassy, 16th Street NW, Luis Gomez Photos

16th Street and Riggs Place NW: The recently poured concrete at the Republic of Congo Embassy came up on December 19. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Michelle Lancaster. Follow her and tell her your news on Twitter @MichLancaster or email her at [email protected].

Apparently, the squeaky wheel does get the grease. Or perhaps it often just has a better PR person? At any rate, Dupont Circle residents made so much noise about the decision by the Republic of Congo Embassy to pave their front yard that the embassy relented and began tearing up the concrete on Monday. (See No More Concrete at the Embassy of Congo.)

It took the DC Department of Transportation, the State Department and other local officials — along with neighborhood organizations — to make it happen. But now even the Grey Lady is in the picture. The New York Times story on Wednesday was after the Republic of Congo took corrective action with plans to replace the concrete with “bushes and mulch.”

The Dupont Circle Conservancy gets much of the credit in the article and the president is quoted a few times. The actual protests in front of the embassy were organized by the Dupont Circle Citizens Association.

The coverage of this squabble in the The Times means a few things:

  • First, it is an extremely slow news week leading up to Christmas.
  • Second, enough attention in local blogs can trickle up to the highest echelons of power (I’m talking about the State Department, not the The Times for any of you FOX News lovers).
  • Third, be very careful if you want to build/renovate/alter anything in Dupont Circle.

The money quote in the article from the Republic of Congo’s ambassador, Serge Mombouli: “They asked us remove the pavement, and that is what we are doing,” he said. “I know that that will not look nice, but that for me is as far as it goes. If we are required to do more, we will lodge a strong protest with the U.S. government.”

Merry Christmas to you, too, Mr. Ambassador.

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by Borderstan.com December 19, 2011 at 12:06 pm 1,789 5 Comments

"Borderstan""16th Street NW""Embassy of Congo"

No more concrete at the Embassy of The Republic of Congo. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Luis Gomez. Catch his photos on Picplz and at One Photograph A Day. Follow him on Twitter @LuisGomezPhotos.

Work is underway at the Embassy of the Republic of Congo to remove the recently poured concrete from the front lawn — we’re assuming they’re not simply replacing it with a different type of concrete. The old Toutorsky Mansion at the corner of 16th Street and Riggs Place NW, now the Republic of Congo Embassy, is getting some green back. The action comes after a protest from the  Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) — and even  a letter from the State Department complaining about the willful destruction of the front lawn and several large trees during renovation of its new embassy on 16th Street.

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.

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.

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by Borderstan.com November 14, 2011 at 11:00 am 2,223 2 Comments

Republic of Congo embassy, Toutorsky Mansion

The Toutorsky Mansion in early 2011 prior to its purchase by the Republic of Congo and renovation work. (Borderstan file photo)

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.

Related Stories

by Borderstan.com January 14, 2011 at 8:23 am 2,224 0

Sidewalk barricades went up on the west side of the 1800 block of 14th Street NW earlier this week in preparation of demolition of buildings on the block. The strip from S to Swann Streets NW will become District Condos, a residential-retail development. The former Whitman-Walker building facade will remain. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Michelle Lancaster

ANC 2B Says No to Chancery at Tourtorsky Mansion

ANC 2B voted 8 to 0 Wednesday night to recommend that the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) not be allowed to use the Toutorksy Mansion at 16th Street and Riggs Place NW as a chancery. Borderstan’s Tom Hay reported Monday on the property and the Congolese government’s desire to use the historic property as an embassy chancery. While the ANC’s resolution is only advisory, the DC Board of Zoning Adjustment is required to give it consideration. Commissioner Jack Jacobson (2B04), whose district includes the property, told Borderstan 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.

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by Borderstan.com January 10, 2011 at 5:30 am 2,705 7 Comments

 

Toutorsky Mansion 16th Street NW Luis Gomez Photos

The owners of the Toutorsky mansion at 16th and Riggs NW have applied for zoning review to locate a chancery in the landmark property. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Tom Hay. Questions for Tom? Send him an email.

The owners of the historic Toutorsky Mansion at 1720 16th Street NW in Dupont Circle have filed an application with the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) seeking approval to locate a chancery in the property. The filing by owners Humberto and Francisco Gonzalez is on behalf of the contract purchaser of the property, The Embassy of the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). Under the Foreign Mission Act of 1982, the location of a chancery in certain mixed-use areas of the city is subject to review and possible disapproval by the BZA.

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