Although the Ontario Lakers failed to raise a $20,000 down payment by the Oct. 15 deadline, negotiations on the sale of an Adams-Morgan warehouse and lot for a community center are continuing.
For the last four years, the Lakers, a yuouth sports and recreation group, have rented the run-down warehouse at 2322 17th St. NW for $500 a month, which was paid by foundation grants. other sections of the 30,000 square-foot building are rented to other tenants, including an auto body shop.
The owner, Herman Goodman, had agreed to sell the property to the Lakers for $350,000. Perpetual Savings and Loan Association had said it would lend the Lakers 75 percent of the purchase price if the group could raise part of the down payment by mid-October and another $80,000 by Jan. 15.
Although the Lakers were not able to raise that much, Tom Owen, president of Perpetual, said, "Perpetual is still interested in helping the Lakers and will review whatever plan is forth coming."
"A lot of people promised to help (raise money) and didn't, said Walter Pierce, the founder of the Lakers and its director for 14 years. The group raised $3,000 by Oct. 15, and "more money has been sent in since," he said.
"If the negotiations end, when the new assessments come out in January (Goodman) will sell the building, and they'll probably tear it down and put up townhouses," Pierce said. "If the kids don't have a center, they'll be out on the streets."
Goodman confirmed that he had several offers to buy the warehouse and lot from people outside the D.C. area.
The Lakers are probably best known in the city for sponsoring the annual Ghetto Invitational Basketball Tournament each spring. They also offer sewing and creative writing classes, take field trips and sponsor discos fr children and teen-agers.
"The diversity of this community is under attack. All the groups with energy and flavor are being driven out of the community," Pierce said.
Pierce is setting up a committee of representatives from the University of the District of Columbia cooperative extension service, the District of Columbia Development Corporation and neighborhood residents to help arrange financing for the purchase.
"We're trying to find a group to give a loan or money to the Lakers for a down payment," said Jim Vitarello, an Adams-Morgan resident. "We may also ask the federal government for an Urban Development Action Grant to cut down on the mortage payments and to rehab (ilitate) the building."
In the event that negotiations end, Pierce is looking for other sites in Adams-Morgan for a Lakers community center. One possibility is the Morgan Annex School at 18th and California streets NW. Several other neighborhood groups are also interested in the site, which would be provided by the city rent-free.