District to Hear New Tune

For Proposed Music Center

This week aides to Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) are to start a two-month push to persuade the D.C. Council to approve new retail and residential buildings and a public library on the downtown site of the old Washington Convention Center.

The deal the Williams administration struck with developers, led by Hines Interests L.P., does not include a music museum and performance space long sought by the Federal City Council, a civic group whose members are a Who's Who of Washington business.

That disappointed supporters, who for months have cited the mayor's appearance at a November press conference where they made a pitch for the site.

It was a celebrity event, with Quincy Jones and Nancy Sinatra on hand as members of the National Music Center and Museum board. Boosters laid out their vision: a 50,000-square-foot museum celebrating American music, with extensive performance space. And they specified that only this premium location was on their radar.

"I'm so excited about the progress we're making finally," Sinatra said. "It looks as though we will be having our grand opening in 2008."

Sinatra wasn't the only one who spoke.

"I want to, on behalf of all the citizens of our city, certainly pledge our support as we undertake this project, to pledge that support and hold that support at every step of the way," Williams said.

Tony Bullock, a spokesman for the mayor, said last week that Williams remains supportive of establishing a music center somewhere in the District -- just not at this crucial site for the redevelopment of downtown.

"I think he would help facilitate that project, if not at the convention center location, at some other location," Bullock said. "He did not suggest when he made that comment last fall that there was a guarantee or a commitment that the proposal could be accommodated on that site."

In the six years since the Federal City Council proposed putting a music center on the site, the idea never caught fire at City Hall despite its influential backers.

Kenneth R. Sparks, the Federal City Council executive who has led the drive, declined to comment. But after all this time, the group still has at least a couple more months to make its case.

Quincy Jones, left, and Nancy Sinatra with Mayor Anthony Williams in November 2003.