Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Museum of Arts and Sciences Making Peace With Neighbors, To Throw Parties Soon

After strongly worded community opposition looked to stall new development at the former Platinum night club venue, tensions have calmed, construction is underway, and the property is set to officially become the Museum of Arts and Sciences (MoA&S) shortly. But this isn't exactly your mom's museum, as there will be no exhibits, simply empty space making room for the private events that will eventually fill its rooms. Bought by Peter Andrullis through The Equitable Place, LLC for $10 million in June of last year, developers hope 915 F Street will become to new hot spot for receptions, fund-raising events, and art shows (ahem, and partying, ahem) in the Penn Quarter neighborhood.

There had been serious concern from residents that the new business operating under the moniker "Museum" and purporting to act as an "educational" event space for curated art events, live performances, poetry readings, and the like, is all simply a guise for a nightclub like Platinum to be reincarnated. It's difficult to fault locals for having concerns, as the museum's plans call for three large dance floors (40' x 40', 34' x 20', 30' x 10') and the ability to serve alcohol to patrons (with up to 1,300 imbibers allowed) until 2am on weeknights and 3am on weekends. In an attempt to explain his new venture, owner Andrullis originally communicated his business as one that would cater to museum/party-goers aged 25-35 and earning upwards of $50,000, insinuating that income level largely determines a person's propensity for bad behavior.

Think this, but with dinosaur bones hanging from the ceilings.
And while the museum vs. night club debate will certainly linger, the project team, under new leadership, has weathered the storm of protest and worked to quell some fears about the excessive noise levels and raucous behavior that the site was previously known for. In a business overview initially given to neighbors, the team emphasized that the site will "not operate as Platinum did or as other area nightclubs do" and will shy away from events that "lessen management control" like "cash bar only" parties. The locals didn't buy it at first, and were well organized and forcefully vocal in their frustration at community meetings, but the parties have sinse approached middle ground.

At one point the venture was threatened when official letters of opposition from ANC6C, ANC2C, Downtown Neighborhood Association, and The Ventana/Mather studios were sent to Alcohol Beverage Regulatory Administration (ABRA). But the Andrullis family decided to take a back seat and allow local resident and hospitality expert Giles Beeker to lead, manage and control the development going forward. Employing a more effective community relations campaign, the MoA&S is now moving quickly forward with their business plan. Addressing the next door residents' security concerns, Beeker helped forge an in-depth security plan, laying out their strategy to maintain "neighborhood peace, quiet, safety and security" before, after, and during the Museum's events; the plan also includes specific policy and procedure to curb, if not entirely eliminate, lines of patrons waiting to enter the property. In coordination with the surrounding community and their legal representative Manny Mpras, Beeker also developed a Voluntary Agreement incorporating specifics of the security plan and other stipulations such as noise abatement and parking issues; the Agreement was recently approved essentially as-is by ABRA.

Renovations at the future Museum are moving along and inspections have begun. The third floor theater-like balcony has been stripped away so the interior sets up more like the multi-purpose facility developers promised and less like a nightclub. One of the most important renovation features, the soundproofing of several top floor, rear rooms was recently completed. The facade of the building is also getting a thorough makeover helping to erase the scars of the bullets from the shooting that shuttered the Platinum night club in 2008.

After rejecting the community protesters' initial request to deny and dismiss the Museum's ABRA application in late June, the MoA&S was required to submit more detailed business plans and security measures before moving forward with their liquor license application. All requested details were submitted in late July and a fact finding hearing was held in early September. The results of that meeting have not been made public, but the process appears to be moving more smoothly without the weight of community opposition. Developers initially hoped to open the venue on October 1st, but will certainly not have the proper licensing by then. Inspections are expected to continue as construction on the main floor winds down this fall, and work on the upper floors will continue into the new year even after doors are opened. The first experimental mash-up of art, science, and alcohol could happen very soon.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News


DCJaded on Sep 22, 2010, 4:02:00 PM said...

i dont understand. This club has been there for years. Even if it is A nighclub, well, its been one since before your damn condo was there, so suck it up. You live in a city. People like to enjoy going out in a city.

Anonymous said...

The club has been closed for 2 years due to numerous fights involving various deadly weapons. As a condo resident across the street, I have no issue with the fact that there is a club on my block. The issue is that I care about my property value and simply giving the place a face lift and re-opening the same space will not help that or the city. Neighbors and patrons should feel safe and as long as the developer takes that into consideration, there shouldn't be an issue.

With Ultra Bar nightclub literally sharing a wall with the former Platinum building, it is only natural for neighbors in the area to be concerned about the amount of inebriated individuals right outside their doors at 3 AM. And with a capacity of 1300 people for the MoA&S alone, this is a viable concern for all involved.

Anonymous said...

I have been to Platinum several times on various nights, had no idea it was shuttered in 2008. BTW, everytime I went there was at least one car if not an entire police van outside...which may not help my case. It was a very nice spot to hang, with the 3 levels of floors looking onto a nice size dance floor. Plus a two room basement dance and lounge area with a bar......simply put....a Very Urban place to party. There is a similar club in Baltimore with the same architectural interior....However I do remember seeing the condos being built right across the street and thinking this could get ugly. It sucks that you can't have 1,000+ people establishments coexists with dense residential area. To me that what defines Urbanity.....then again, Unfortunately once some outsider decides to go haywire up at a club, even outside.....the CLUB is blamed?!?!......which is odd to me. To bad they taking out the top level......its was good view...smh.

Anonymous said...

This space was awesome when I visited it as "The Fifth Column" in the early 90's.

Anonymous said...

Its was all just alot of bulling. The protest came from the neighboring anc, that is located blocks away. The anc in which the building is located was fine with everything. As far as the company, well after being told by the people who were protesting, "if you do not drop the person you have in charge of the project, you will never get your license", owner ( i was told) walked in the next day, and told the GM good bye it was a nice run. This happened in june of 2010. S dnt worry, the company has down sized. The persons who are the decision makers are trying to have an apple business in an orange industry!

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