"It's a stupendous thing, just a wonderful thing," said Rocco Panetta, manager of the Annapolis Hotel in the 1100 block of H Street NW, when he heard the news yesterday.
But a middle-aged woman standing on the steps of her rooming house two blocks away burst into tears as she tried to explain that, for her, Washington's long-awaited convention center could spell eviction.
"I'm so upset about it," she said, clutching papers in her hand documenting the sale of her rooming house last sumer. "If they tear down this building. I just don't know . . . Am I going to be on the street?"
At the Kowloon Restaurant near 11th and H streets, just across from the convention center site, manager Douglas Y. Toy was optimistically philosophical on learning that Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) had agreed to release the convention center funds.
"An old town, an old city must be improved, renewed," said Toy. "You can't keep the 19th century, you can't have the houses routing. You have to build and go forward, not look black. It will be good for everybody."
When the convention center is built, Toy added, he hopes to keep the Kowloon open 24 hours a day.
But Narinder K. Sharma, who runs the Prince Cafe on the 10th Street - directly on the convention center site - said he was afraid it would be impossible to find a nearby location for a rent comparable to the $375 a month he pays now.
"When I heard it (Leahy's announcement) . . . I told the man who subleases the liquor store, 'Man, are we really in trouble now," said Sharma.
Located on the edge of Chinatown in a rundown section of Washington that is home to parking lots, abandoned rowhouses; boarded-up storefronts and more than 80 small businesses, the convention center will have a dramatic impact on those who live and work in the area. New city figures show that about 83 families will have to move if the center is built.
Supporters envision the center as the focal point of a revitalized old downtown, with new hotels and resturants serving conventioneers and generating employment.
Rosell Pickrel, who owns a vending equipment company in the 800 block of I Street, said he has not been asked to vacate yet, but expects to be. "I think it's terrible, absolutely terrible," said Pickrel. "It's the most hideous thing."
But Margaret Casey, owner of the Sensuous Boutique at 933 H ST. NW, supports the convention center even though it will put her out of business at her current address. The center will benefit the city, she says, and she is optimistic about finding an even better location.