Washington businessman D.C. Allen, owner of 14th Street's Crew Club gay gym and spa, on April 2 announced a donation of $25,000 to The DC Center, the city's LGBT community center, to assist with its upcoming relocation into the Frank D. Reeves Center Municipal Building at 14th and U Streets NW this summer.
In December, Mayor Vincent Gray (D) announced that The DC Center had been selected to occupy space in the District-owned Reeves Center for a period of at least 15 years.
The Center will pay a starting rent of $4,500 per month, with an annual increase of 2.7 percent, for a 15-year lease. The community center also offered $30,000 of its own money to make renovations to the space, but Michelle Ross and Michael Fowler, members of The DC Center's relocation committee, estimate that the remaining cost of renovations to the Reeves Center space could range from $75,000 to $100,000.
''We essentially have to bring it down to the studs and then build it up from scratch,'' Fowler says. ''With the kind of world-class community center we're hoping to build, it can get pricey.''
''We're going to have a dual effort of fundraising and make an effort to attract high-dollar donors,'' Ross, the vice chair of The DC Center's board of directors, adds.
Ross says the LGBT center expects to complete the renovations in order to be able to move in sometime after Capital Pride, in mid-to-late June, which is when its current lease for the space at 1318 U St. NW expires.
Speaking at a ''DC Center associates'' – dedicated monthly donors – reception held Tuesday at TTR Sotheby's International Realty on 14th Street NW, Allen presented David Mariner, the center director, and Michael Sessa, center president, with a $25,000 check.
''We do a lot of charitable work for our business – my partner, Ken Flick, and I – and I think that The Center is one of the most important things we can do in the city,'' Allen told attendees. ''I'm really looking forward to the new space, and getting everyone in there so that more programs can develop from it, especially youth programs, which I feel are one of the most important aspects.''
In addition to youth programs, Allen specifically praised The DC Center's HIV and Crystal Meth working groups, which address major LGBT health concerns.
But public health awareness is nothing new to Allen. In 2005, as owner of the Crew Club, he used a portion of his company's advertising budget - $40,000 in all – to help print public service announcements aimed at getting men tested as part of an anti-syphilis campaign. Allen also opened the Crew Club to syphilis screeners from the D.C. Department of Health to offer regular testing. Both moves have been credited with helping lead to a 5 percent drop in D.C. syphilis infection rates in 2005.
''This means we don't do a lot of vacations this year,'' Allen joked as he presented Mariner and Sessa with the check. ''When people give a lot of money, you think, 'Oh, they have a lot of money to give.' It's not always that way. What it is, is the choices that we make in our lives, and where we think this kind of money would be effective.''
In thanking Allen for the donation, Sessa said, ''The thing about D.C. [Allen] is that he interacts with so many of us on so many different levels in the community. He's one of us. He's a guy that decides to step up. And he steps up a lot. And we are truly, truly beneficiaries of your generosity and your partner's.''
''We're very excited to get a good kick-start to the relocation effort with this large donation,'' Fowler says of Allen's donation.
Ross says that The DC Center's relocation fund is accepting small donations, but did not have figures available for how much has been raised so far. She did say that figures would soon become available, particularly for some large-dollar donors as the center's move-in date approaches.
''We'll be revealing how folks in the community have helped us out,'' says Ross, explaining that the center will announce donations of equipment and furniture in coming weeks.