Monday, July 30, 2007

leggett: fillmore's pitfalls don't hurt its potential for moco music lovers (updated)

UPDATE: In a press release issued this morning (but one that did not reach JUTP until late this afternoon), Ike Leggett spelled out his frustration over the loss of the Birchmere:
". . . Those who know me know that I have the patience of Job. Still, the County has been working for five years to reach an agreement with Birchmere . . . the County's vision is to bring a first-class music and entertainment venue to Silver Spring in the former J.C. Penney building. And that's just what we are going to do.

Again, I share your disappointment that the Birchmere didn't work out, despite the County's best efforts. Now it's time to move on."

Just Up The Pike normally doesn't troll the listservs, but an e-mail from A. Leger of East Silver Spring may shed some light on the collapsed Birchmere deal that has neighborhoods near Downtown Silver Spring in an uproar over the loss of the famous folk club.

At a community picnic last Saturday, Park Hills resident "Lisa" grilled County Executive Ike Leggett about the Birchmere's replacement: "the Fillmore," a chain of rock clubs named for a San Francisco hippie landmark.

"We're very much like Takoma Park . . . people like their folk music, and they love the Birchmere," explains Elisabeth Higgins Null of Bonifant Street, who forwarded "Lisa's" post to the well-read Queen Anne's listserv. "I think people were concerned about larger rock bands or more commercial music [at the Fillmore] . . . but also concerned about traffic." Following this month's photo controversy and the struggle for "the Turf," "this was just one more thing" to set residents off," Higgins Null adds.

The post follows:
From: "Lisa.......... " <>
Date: Sat, 28 Jul 2007 22:06:45 -0400
Subject: Re: [parkhillscivic] Ike Leggett on the Birchmere

. . . The original deal was for The Birchmere to pay $7,000 rent monthly and to renovate the interior (mainly the kitchen) for around $750,000. It was a rent-to-own arrangement and the 750K would have been subtracted from a future purchase price. I believe the original number of seats allocated was around 700. The county was going to contribute something like $8-10 million.

The Birchmere changed the terms and stated that they wanted: a. More improvements to the kitchen, at an estimated cost of $2 million. They wanted the county to pay 60% of the cost. b. Additional space in the back so that the tour buses could not only park in the alley but also turn around back there. This required them to remove part of the existing building, reducing the number of seats to 450.
more AFTER THE JUMP . . .
The county balked at this because with only 450 seats the potential for profit was substantially reduced . . . the Birchmere was not willing to change their terms. At the moment the only other group they have found with long-term economic viability is Live Nation . . . Mr. Leggett surmised that The Birchmere may have changed their terms because they signed an agreement with [Loudoun] County that was not as favorable to them, and they are feeling the pinch financially as they build that other facility.

Mr. Leggett's main concern with Live Nation is that they are agreeing to provide a greater diversity of entertainers (including jazz, folk, etc.) that would be agreeable to our community but that over the long term perhaps they will start showcasing acts that are high profit but not necessarily in line with the desires of the community. The county is trying to figure out a solution.

The Fillmore could potentially seat 1400-1700 people. I expressed concern over the parking and traffic situation (as did others) and he said that traffic would have to be directed. There are public garages north of 29 that are never full in the evenings. They could remove the meters in those garages if necessary. They are also in negotiations with the owners of the private lot on Georgia just north of 29 . . ."


Anonymous said...

I don't think the community needs any "music" establishments that attract rowdy young crowds. They should have stuck with Birchmere and made the deal work. 1400 seats would be crazy. It would be like if they replaced the failed American Dream mall proposal with a much bigger mall proposal. They're trying to make silver spring into the next Nissan Pavillion.

Anonymous said...

I have no problem with a music venue as long as it doesn't play old hippy crap. I was a hippy, but the most exciting live music I saw was at The Mabuhay Gardens (The Fab Mab), a famous punk rock venue in San Francisco in the late 70's. The DC area has a great Hardcore/Straight Edge history. Henry Rollins, The Bad Brains... Yea, it would push a lot of peoples buttons, but there's nothing like being pissed-off to make you feel alive.

adb said...

I lurk on the Woodside Park mailing list, and a lot of them seem to sound like the "anonymous" poster. Apparently, they're not kidding, either. There's some evidence they're not abundantly thrilled by the presence of the Youth in the rest of the "downtown", either. It's not clear at what age one would be certified to enter a Proper WPCA-managed downtown area.

1400 seats is like adding, what, another multiplex theater? Is that a crippling load for one of the DC area's major area transit hubs to shoulder? 'cause I'm not seeing how that'd be the case.

What *I'm* most threatened by is the idea of a venue that might host, god forbid, Jimmy Buffet. The idea of that fan base overrunning the town sends me to the basement to ready the pitchforks and torches.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, that Ragtime, or Jazz or -- heaven forbid...Rock & Roll... will just be the end of our community as we know it.

Puh-leez people, quit being such xenophobic philistines.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to have ANY kind of Live music venue in that Building. It's too great a location to have it sit as an eyesore, vacant and deteriorating. It's been empty way too long. It's time to bring it back to life! As for the Birchmere College Park is certainly a heck of lot closer to Silver Spring than Virgina, so I think we've gotten the best of both worlds in Silver Spring!! YEAH