Jun 2, 2024 - News

D.C.'s new LGBTQ+ hub will bring life-changing services under one roof

A rendering of a kitchen space in The DC Center's new building

An interactive kitchen at the new center. Rendering courtesy Hickok Cole

A former warehouse in Shaw is transforming into a huge, dynamic center for LGBTQ+ organizations in D.C.

Why it matters: Advocates hope the nearly 7,000-square-foot complex will become a rare hub where LGBTQ+ folks in the region can access a range of services — from counseling to yoga and meditation classes and free hot meals— all in one place.

How it works: When it opens, the five-story complex neighboring Howard Theatre will house the DC LGBTQ+ Community Center (The DC Center), a service-oriented nonprofit, and the Capital Pride Alliance (CPA), which spearheads D.C. Pride and more programming.

State of play: The DC Center and CPA broke ground on the partially renovated building last June with the help of $1 million in funding from the mayor's office. The timeline originally pinned a 2023 debut. Like many major projects, it's taking longer.

  • Kimberley Bush, executive director of The DC Center, tells Axios that construction is 70% finished and an opening timeline is still being finalized.
  • The space is designed by Hickok Cole, the firm behind Studio Theatre and the new Spy Museum.

What they're saying: "In our new home, we don't have to do the warm handoff [to other organizations for resources]," Bush tells Axios. "You'll be able to walk down a hallway and speak to a free therapist. Or go into our expanded food pantry for a meal. And anywhere you can sit in a place of safety and respite."

Context: The DC Center was founded in 2004 and currently serves out of the Reeves Center municipal building, which will soon be redeveloped for commercial business.

  • The nonprofit provides a wide spectrum of services, from health and wellness to peer counseling and a "community closet" with free clothing.
A former brick warehouse with rainbow color windows
The Shaw building for the new center. Photo courtesy of The DC Center

Zoom in: Tripling The DC Center's size will allow it to expand existing services, like hot meals, in addition to a food pantry thanks to new partner Food Rescue US-DC. Or a boutique-style closet where those in need can "shop." Or more computers and charging stations, and additional hours for mental health and testing services.

  • It'll also allow for new offerings, like ADA-compliant showers, secure lockers, and mail and laundry services. Also, more in-person counseling and wellness offerings like yoga and meditation.

Zoom out: Bush says a number of the new services fill a need left by the closing of Casa Ruby. The housing, food, and social center shuttered in 2022 amid fraud allegations.

  • Meanwhile, another LGBTQ+ center just debuted in Dupont Circle: Destination Tomorrow, a national organization focused on transgender and nonbinary services.

Between the lines: Bush hopes the complex will also become an incubator for up-and-coming LGBTQ+ organizations or nonprofits. They plan to rent desk space below market value or even for free.

What's next: The DC Center is still fundraising for the project with a $1.5 million goal, and they've launched a "Buy a Brick" campaign with donations starting at $250.

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