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Uline Arena’s Future Uncertain

An apparent move to raze the Uline Arena by owner Waste Management has a District of Columbia neighborhood association pushing for its preservation.

City officials say they do not know with certainty, however, whether Waste Management has targeted the building, also known as the Washington Coliseum, for demolition.

A D.C. City Council staff member, who requested anonymity, said last week, “I don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re wondering ourselves.”

Gwen Davis, spokeswoman for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, said her department has no application on file that specifically mentions either Uline Arena or the Washington Coliseum.

Richard Layman, a Northeast neighborhood activist, is certain, however. Waste Management has “requested raze permits for the whole complex. There’s no question that they have.”

At issue is a demolition application filed May 1 by LG Industries, a subsidiary of Texas-based Waste Management, for 1140 Third St. NE, the approximate site of the arena.

Dan Pernell, chairman of the Ward 4 Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said the application is being scrutinized.

“We’re looking at the lots and we’re seeing if the lots include the whole metric of the arena,” he said. If so, he added, neighborhood residents would voice their disapproval of demolishing the arena.

Rick Gangloff, listed on the application as an agent for LG Industries, said Monday the application is meant to encompass the arena site. “That’s what [LGI’s] intention was to do,” he said. Gangloff said he works for Permits Limited, a private permitting firm not related to LGI.

Don Payne, a Waste Management spokesman, said last week his company has no plans to tear the arena down. “Our main goal right now is to sell that site,” he said. When asked if the application includes the arena’s lot numbers, Payne said, “It probably does. But we’re not planning to tear it down right now.”

Payne said he would attempt to clarify Waste Management’s intentions but did respond by press time.

In the meantime, Layman said the Near Northeast Citizens Against Crime and Drugs would work to file a historical landmark application with the city’s Historic Preservation Review Board.

He said the arena has important historical, if not necessarily aesthetic, significance. Built in 1941, the arena hosted The Beatles’ first U.S. concert. For the past decade LGI has used it as a trash transferring and compacting station.

Layman said a more pressing reason for the arena’s preservation is to use it as a bulwark against real estate development in his mostly residential and small retail neighborhood.

Demolition of the arena, he said, “would put block after bock of residential under threat for conversion to commercial. Maybe the city might benefit, but Richard Layman is out of a house.”

Layman said real estate development would probably not benefit his neighborhood. A new building on the Uline Arena site, he said, would “not likely to be designed in a way that links to the neighborhood in ways that promote spillover benefit or linkages.”

The New York Avenue Metrorail stop, currently under construction, makes the Uline site attractive, Layman said.

David Bell, an architect and president of the D.C. Preservation League, said he estimates the arena could be replaced with a 600,000-square-foot office building, based on the arena’s footprint and area zoning requirements.

Councilwoman Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6), whose ward includes the arena, said she supports the neighborhood groups’ push to apply for landmark status. “The community has suffered for the past decade from the negative impact of that trash transfer station. I think the community should be involved.”

Pernell said no one from Waste Management has contacted him regarding the demolition.

The anonymous City Council staffer said much of the neighborhood’s negative reaction to the possible razing came from the “idea that things are happening without much community input.”

Of the arena itself, which stopped being a trash transfer station only last year, the staff member said, “It’s a mess. Pretty nasty.”

Bell said the arena should be turned into a “recreation and entertainment venue close to the neighborhood.”

Ambrose, however, said residents should understand that “right now, there is no potential for the city buying that building and turning it into a community center. There’s no money, absolutely zero.”

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