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Atlas Theater up for historic landmark status

(Published August 23, 1999)

The H Street Community Development Corp. and the D.C. Preservation League are considering filing an application seeking historic landmark status for the 1939 art deco Atlas Theater on H Street NE. It is unclear whether the application would be filed by one or both groups.

The community development corporation, which bought the vacant theater for about $1 million in 1984, refurbished the exterior but has been unable to find a permanent tenant for the space.

"The landmark application is being circulated and we will probably do it," said Anwar Saleem, a member of the CDCís board of directors. He said the application could be filed within the next few weeks.

Official landmark designation from the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board would make it more difficult to knock the building down or change its appearance. A formal review process would be required before any such changes could be made.

William Barrow, president of the H Street CDC, refused to comment on the existence or status of the Atlas application. Some in the community have speculated that Barrow hoped to tear the theater down. The CDC recently tore down four historic buildings at the corner of H and 8th streets NE a few days after local preservationists filed an application for landmark status to preserve them.

Meanwhile a consortium of four local theater groups, including the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, has submitted a proposal to the CDC for restoration of the interior and use of the space for arts education and performances.

According to the preservation league, historic theaters are among the top 10 most endangered historic buildings in the District.óRebecca Charry

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator