D.c.'s Biggest Concert Venue, Surrounding Neighborhood Get Makeovers (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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D.C.'s Biggest Concert Venue, Surrounding Neighborhood Get Makeovers

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
We turn now from a makeover involving our rural past to a makeover that's all about our urban future. This one has to do with the redevelopment of one of D.C.'s industrial zones, just off New York Avenue in the center of Ward 5. A newly formed mayoral task force is looking at make the neighborhood greener and more modern while still keeping it business-friendly. And smack dab in the middle of all the old buildings, some hopping party venues are already putting former warehouses to use.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:28
Among them, Echostage, the city's largest dedicated concert space. Echostage is currently closed as it undergoes its own renovation, but earlier this week, outside the club, Jonathan Wilson caught up with its general manager Matt Cronin to talk about the changes in store for the venue and for the neighborhood.

MR. JONATHAN WILSON

00:00:46
So for people who haven't been to Echostage, never went to it and haven't heard of it, what is it like inside there and what are you guys aiming for with this renovation?

MR. MATT CRONIN

00:00:54
Kind of like a modern warehouse concept, a hybrid concept, if you will. A crossover between nightclub amenities without losing a true venue in concertgoer's experience. Meaning we have the large open floor, but we also have the mezzanines, which are 21 and up, that cater to more of like a high-end experience without getting jostled into, where you can get a drink comfortably.

WILSON

00:01:19
In terms of the part of town that you guys are in, you guys are kind of hidden back here. If you aren't looking for a party, you wouldn't know it was here. Do you guys like that or is that something that you, you know, see changing in the future for this part of D.C.?

CRONIN

00:01:33
I think when you're dealing with real estate and locations and when you're scouting potential areas to start a business, you have to look down the road a little bit. And this area is under a lot of development, the corridor is great in terms of access to suburban customers, with Virginia and Maryland having 50 connecting right into 95 North, 495, you know, 395. You can't beat the location as far as accessibility. And it's really being beautified and becoming nicer every week that we see.

WILSON

00:02:07
Is there any cachet having this kind of industry around you? The fact that the venue is kind of hidden back here, not near any residential area, not near any commercial right now? Or would you guys like it if this area's completely transformed like, I think, some people would like it to be?

CRONIN

00:02:25
You know, it's a Catch-22. In the music industry, people love the warehouse feel. They love kind of like that edgy warehouse district feel. But then there is a comfortable aspect that has to be approached and taken care of. So, you know, we're just going to grow with the neighborhood, work with our area and the community and try to make it as comfortable for our neighbors and as comfortable for the concertgoers as possible.

WILSON

00:02:51
What have you heard from the city and from, you know, I guess developers around here, about the possibilities for this neighborhood? What's in store for around us? Obviously, there's a lot of construction going on as we speak. There seems to be a lot of empty buildings, or at least buildings that are maybe underused or, you know, not quite certain what's going to happen with them. What do you see and hear about the future here?

CRONIN

00:03:15
Not far from here at all, less than a mile, the Hex Building, which is a Washington, D.C. landmark, Douglas development is currently beginning a huge mass of renovation of that are, multiple city blocks, which is going to help us out tremendously. Obviously, with the NOMA area right over off of New York, with that Metro station, all those new massive apartment buildings, all of the Harris Teeters and the Starbucks. I mean the area's growing. I see it every day. And it will be down here. It's just a matter of time.

WILSON

00:03:48
So tell me, in terms of the renovation, when did you guys kind of shut up shop to renovate and when will it reopen?

CRONIN

00:03:54
This renovation was always planned since we initially started the project. The renovation will be done sometime in mid-March. Our first show in March, March 23 is going to be a mega (word?) promo, which is Excision. Followed the next week by two nights of David Guetta. So, you know, we'll be open March 23, ready to rock and roll.

WILSON

00:04:15
In terms of, you know, we're talking about this neighborhood, how fast do you think things will happen?

CRONIN

00:04:18
Based off of what I've seen in other parts of the city -- and this is just me throwing it out there -- I would say about five to seven years, probably, before it really is unrecognizable. But you're going to see major construction and changes over the next two years, three years. Five to seven years, that's when you'll see everyone kind of comfortably saying, "This is completely different than I remember it." Same thing happened at Columbia Heights, U Street, H Street. I mean, that's just the way it works.

SHEIR

00:04:46
That was Echostage general manager Matt Cronin talking with Jonathan Wilson. The mayor's Ward 5 Industrial Land Transformation Task Force has a year to do its work. It is scheduled to submit a report to the mayor in January of next year. If you want to see pictures of the neighborhood around Echostage on Queens Chapel Road, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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