The American Psychiatric Association, its anxiety level up over vigorous community opposition to its plans to demolish a Connecticut Avenue pub, has given up on its plans to build a high-rise office building on the site.
The association has signed a contract to sell the Ben Bow bar and its adjacent Connecticut Avenue parking lot to local developer Jeff Cohen, who said he will preserve and restore the building and allow the pub to remain, at least for a while.
Dr. Jack W. White, deputy director of business administration for the psychiatric association, noted yesterday that the city's historic preservation officer has delayed demolition of the building, located at 1636 Connecticut Ave. until the middle of April to allow time for negotiation with the residents. And new, strict historic preservation laws go into effect in late February or early March, he added.
"It became clear to us that it wouldn't be possible to build," White said. He said his organization will continue to look for office space in Washington.
But in view of the community uproar, he said, "We won't be looking in Dupont Circle unless we can afford a building that has already been built. The climate is such that it wouldn't be a wise move." The APA, he said, has no "hard feelings" over their run-in with the Ben Bow patrons.
The Ben Bow for years has been a popular hangout for a mixed clientele. So when the association purchased the building last year and announced that it planned to demolish the pub and build a high-rise office building, the customers of the very Irish Ellen Donlan did not take the issue lightly.
They organized and demonstrated, carrying signs saying "Drinks not Shrinks," and spread the word, said one customer, that "I'd rather have a bottle of beer in front of me than a frontal lobotomy."
Jeff Cohen, an attorney and developer, said he signed a contract to buy the building and adjacent parking lot for "more than a million dollars" about three weeks ago. Cohen said he plans to restore the building to its original elegance and move his offices from 1710 Connecticut Ave. to the Ben Bow building. The Ben Bow bar will be allowed to remain only "temporarily" until he needs the space for offices. Cohen said that at this point, he could not define how long "temporarily" is.
Eventually, Cohen added, two-bedroom condominiums and retail stores may be constructed on the parking lot next door to the Ben Bow. Cohen said he has "no idea" how high the new buildings may be, but he said they definitely will not be 90-feet high rises. The APA had planned 7 or 8 story buildings.