Hill Center Reveals Business Plan – 25% of Operating Revenue To Come from Special Events

Hill Center Reveals Business Plan – 25% of Operating Revenue To Come from Special Events

by Larry Janezich

Saturday afternoon, a dozen Hill Center (HC) neighbors met with Hill Center officials in the first of  a series of meetings designed to open up a dialogue with the community regarding HC operations.  Among the neighbors present were well-known Hill residents Barbara Eck, Paul Malvey, and Jill Lawrence.  Diana Ingraham, Executive Director, and Catherine Smith, Director of Special Events, represented HC. 

Saying “we want Hill Center to be the heartbeat of the community,” Ingraham went on to acknowledge that Hill Center has been criticized for not releasing its business plan.  She then revealed that plan to the group. 

The annual operating budget is $750,000.  There are four revenue streams to account for that.

Rental of the carriage house (about $50,000 annually) to a café vendor and rental of office space (about $62,000 annually) to non-profit organizations together will account for 15%  ($112,500) . Among the organizations seeking office space in HC are ANC6b, Capitol Hill Village, and the Capitol Hill Restoration Society.    

Third party program providers who will rent additional space to expand their programming will provide 60% of the funding ($450,000).  These will include organizations like CHAW and the Folger, as well as other independent operators offering classes in the arts and technology, or physical training classes such as yoga.  No contracts have been signed yet; that must wait for HC to obtain a certificate of occupancy. 

Rental of space for special events will account for the remaining 25% ($187,500) – about $15,000 a month.  A conference room can be rented for half a weekday for $350, but the largest spaces, such as the entire second floor will cost $1500 for half a weekday and $5000 for a full day and evening on weekends. The garden will rent for $500 for half a weekday and $1250 for a full day on weekends.    

Hill Center representatives distributed a list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding Special Events, recently posted on Hill Center’s website.  The document gave the clearest picture yet about how HC intends to operate under the limitations they agreed to in the voluntary agreement negotiated with ANC6b during the liquor licensing process.    

When compared against the voluntary operational agreement, the FAQ sheet shows special events will be limited to 250 participants inside (the entire second floor) and outside (the summer garden).  The voluntary agreement had set the limit at 300.

The FAQs document states sale of alcohol in the garden will stop at 8:00pm weekdays and 9:00pm Friday and Saturday – each an hour earlier than in the voluntary agreement

The sale of alcohol inside will cease at 11:00pm daily, down from 1:00am weekdays and 2:00am Friday and Saturday.

Entertainment in the garden will stop at 8:00pm weekdays, and 9:00pm Friday and Saturday – no change from the voluntary agreement. 

Entertainment inside will stop at 11:00pm daily, instead of 1:00am on weekdays and 2:00am Friday and Saturday. 

 Ingraham said HC Neighbors will be invited to participate in decibel level tests, judging from their own homes what is too loud regarding entertainment both inside and outside Hill Center.  Ingraham also clarified where the summer garden will be located; it will be on the east side of the building, nearest 10th Street. 

Neighbor Paul Malvey led a discussion between the neighbors and HC officials, raising a number of concerns and proposed solutions which neighbors had formulated in a meeting a week earlier.  Among these were parking and valet parking, occupancy levels, special event security, loading and unloading, trash, amplification of sound in the garden, and communication with neighbors.  Elliott noted each of the specific concerns and proposed solution. 

At meeting’s end, Barbara Eck commented that she had been working to save Old Naval Hospital long before the idea for a hill center had been broached and had been a strong supporter and advocate for Hill Center since then.  But, she said, much of the neighbors’ good will had been lost when they were “blindsided” by the terms of the liquor license (see emmcablog, June 1).   She said that the voluntary agreement negotiated with the ANC needs improvement and “we want it in writing.”  Eck went on to say petitions are being circulated “to let HC know it’s not what people are saying on the blogs – that we’re just NIMBYs.  There’s widespread feeling on this and we want Hill Center to know lots of people want something better. “

Other neighbors stressed that the purpose of the letter of protest the group will file with the Alcohol Beverage Review Board (ABRA) prior to the July 18 hearing on HC’s application for a liquor license is to give them legal standing to negotiate a new voluntary agreement. The neighbors hope to negotiate the new agreement before the ABRA hearing. 

The neighbors will meet the first week of July to finalize the details of what they would like the new voluntary agreement to contain and then seek a meeting with Hill Center’s Board of Directors to negotiate the terms of that agreement.  Neighbors will also meet again with HC officials in a month as part of an on-going dialogue between the Center and the community.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “Hill Center Reveals Business Plan – 25% of Operating Revenue To Come from Special Events

  1. HIllwoman

    The problem is that what appears on the website is not legally binding. If the Hill Center and supporting organizations want to gain the confidence of the near neighbors, they will, at a minimum, make the voluntary agreement consistent with the statements on the website. It would of course be far better if those organizations who wish to rent space in the Hill Center (do we know if the rent charged will be market rates?) would recuse themselves from making decisions about issues that create the appearance of a conflict of interest. That is what D.C. ethics law requires of at least the ANC, who are elected officials.

  2. The VA seems entirely reasonable to me.

    What exactly is so objectionable? I read mentions of ‘specific concerns’, but no details of what they are – making them not very specific at all, yet alone making it possible to determine if those objections are actually reasonable.

  3. B Pate

    @HIllwoman,

    I understand your concern regarding conflict of interest. I’ve researched the issue, and because the HC is a non-profit group, there is not a legal conflict of interest under DC law.

    Several of us remain concerned with the perception of a conflict. To mitigate this, Gottlieb Simon, Executive Director of the Office of ANCs, will review all of our dealings with the Hill Center, and handle any rent negotiations.

  4. HIllwoman

    @ B Pate

    Has your research consisted of getting a legal opinion from the Office of the Attorney General about what the law requires from the ANC and individual Commissioners? If not, I suggest that guidance be obtained from the OAG, who are the experts in the law of the District of Columbia.

    At this point, anyone who supports the current manifestation of the Hill Center’s plans has a lot of explaining to do, particularly when that support is seen in the context of other decisions about the neighborhood. Some kind of rational analysis is needed when approaching these issues. It is not responsible to subject proposals from “friends” to less scrutiny than those from “strangers.” Individual commissioners need to put aside their personal feelings and biases for and against applicants in order to make reasoned and transparent decisions. If this is done, at least the process will have some integrity, even if individuals might disagree with specific decisions.

  5. Was this part of the original plan? If not, any thing new should have required notifications and meetings a long time ago. However, it you hired a director and said “get it done”, it might be too late.

  6. G!

    Well, it’s hard to see how an entire ANC could recuse itself. This isn’t a situation where an individual member stands to benefit — rather the board itself — a public body — would potentially stand to benefit. Recusing itself completely presumably would strip the neighborhood of having a voice in the issue (so, no voluntary agreement at all), which I’m sure isn’t your goal.

    Also, this wasn’t a vote on the rent that the ANC would pay, but rather on other issues related to the center. I can think of several other factors that would weigh for or against a conflict. Not saying there isn’t one — it’s just not obvious what it is, or how it could be avoided.

    OAC’s advisory letters to ANCs are up on its website. I’m sure one or another of them addresses this.

  7. anon

    The conflict of interest discussion for Hill Center and ANC6B is worth debating, but it seems like less of an obvious conflict than ANC members with ownership stakes voting on ABC issues for establishments in which they are financially vested. That absolutely SCREAMS conflict of interest. Even for perfunctory approvals such cases demand recusal.

  8. AJones

    Larry’s comments that the hours for entertaining and serving alcohol “will” stop at a certain time is optimistic. Just because the Hill Center advertises those hours is no guarantee that they “will” stop then, unless those hours are in writing in a Voluntary Agreement with either the ANC or the surrounding neighbors. If the Hill Center staff intends to abide by the hours being publicized, why were they reluctant to sign a Voluntary Agreement to that effect at the ANC meeting?

  9. Kathleen

    These numbers help to give some sense of the operational realities of the Old Navy Hospital–but only some. I assume the ONH representatives are capable of division, hence their (baffling) reluctance to sketch the basics of their business plan at the ANC meeting must mean that they do not have full confidence in these numbers. And why would they? It’s a new venture; no one knows what will happen.
    To me that 60% number seems the most suspect. If ONH fails to recruit a robust cycle of programming, it seems likely that there will be more weddings and events.