Four community groups are vying to buy the old Hines Funeral Home in the heart of a 14th Street corridor that still bears ths scars of the 1968 riots.
The proposals for the vacant, turreted red brick building include renovating it into an Ethiopian resettlement center, an Islamic school, offices and meeting space for the Delta Sigma Theta sorority or a headquarters for a neighborhood association.
The building, once considered by the NAACP for its national headquarters, belongs to the city's urban renewal agency. The Redevelopment Land Agency, which purchased the property after the riots, is expected to give the redevelopment rights to one of the groups on March 21, according to Phil Johnson, a high-ranking city official who works with the RLA.
"We should be making some decisions shortly," said Johnson, whose staff assists RLA. "Whoever is chosen will win the developmental rights to buy the building and rehabilitate it. We haven't decided on a price yet, but we're not donating it," he added. The property, at 2901 14th St. NW, is valued at $700,000, he said.
The Ethiopian Community Center, organized four years ago to help newly arrived Ethiopians, has proposed using the building for programs in job referral, legal counseling and housing aid.
"I went by the Hines building one day, and it looked so good, we thought it would be appropriate for our needs," said Hermela Kedebe, president of the nonprofit center, now located at 1929 18th St. NW.
The Islamic Community School, which now runs a private school with 47 students at 3727 Ninth St. NW, wants to use the Hines building for adult education classes and tutoring programs, said Carnita Dawkins, a school official.
The local alumni chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, the second oldest black sorority in the country, needs a home and central location for its service programs.
The sorority currently has no headquarters and meets in public buildings around the city, said Jean Christian, president of the 72-year-old Washington alumni branch.
The Columbia Heights Association consists of five community groups in the upper 14th Street area that banded together six months ago to try and obtain the Hines building for "a day-care center, a drafting center for minority contractors where construction specialists could come in and share their expertise, and a retail store -- perhaps a drug store or a fast-food store for the elderly, since the nearest drug or fast-food places are blocks away," said Dana B. Stebbins, the group's general counsel.
The group consists of the Latin American Youth Center; the KLD Construction Co., a minority owned construction firm; the District of Columbia Contractors Association; the Hispanic American Contractors Association, and Urban Realty, a real estate company.