There’s lots of activity right now, and it’s not just the political campaigns.
On Monday, Arena Stage celebrated its 60th year by officially moving back into its new $120 million Mead Center for American Theater on the Southwest waterfront.
The gleaming glass building designed by architect Bing Thom will become a jewel of Southwest in October when it begins offering productions on its three stages.
“We now have the premier American theater in the United States right here in Southwest,” marveled Andy Litsky, an active advisory neighborhood commissioner. “It’s a very big deal -- not just for Southwest, but the entire city.”
Arena is one of the nation’s foremost regional theaters, and you can expect a lot more publicity about the new facility as we near the Oct. 23 weekend reopening. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are honorary hosts of the Oct. 25 black-tie gala.
Arena Stage artistic director Molly Smith, who’s had to juggle performances both in Crystal City and on U Street NW during the hiatus, had a little relief in her voice on Monday.
“We are finally home,” she said. “We are finally home.”
• More on Maine.
Just down Maine Avenue from the Arena, there’s another big change coming.
The city is starting to tear down the old Hogate’s Restaurant building. The famed Hogate’s, with its rum buns and fried seafood, is a distant memory. The building most recently housed the annoying H2O nightclub that finally closed after too many neighborhood complaints about noise, neighborhood disruptions and even fighting.
Mayor Adrian Fenty announced late Monday that the city this fall will demolish the Hogate’s building and remove its unsightly parking lot. Next to go is Zanzibar’s, another club and restaurant that’s in its final days of operation, according to redevelopment officials.
The rush of change in Southwest really isn't that rushed. The new Arena Stage has been under construction since January 2008.
But long-suffering Southwest citizens are delighted that the close-in neighborhood is being revived and that they finally are seeing tangible results. (And just for proper disclosure, the Notebook lives in the Southwest neighborhood. But we’re not long-suffering.)
• WAMU forum.
If you get the current Current early enough today, you may be able to catch a special edition of the Politics Hour on WAMU 88.5 FM this week. The special Wednesday noon program (not Friday) will feature an hour-long conversation among host Kojo Nnamdi, Mayor Adrian Fenty, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray and the Notebook. We hope to take more than a few telephone calls, too.
If you miss the live broadcast, the audio will be available later on the station’s website, wamu.org.
• Fenty’s personality.
The WAMU forum will be another chance for Mayor Adrian Fenty to demonstrate that he now recognizes that his aloof personality (and that’s putting it mildly) is a major issue in this campaign.
The mayor last week told NBC4 that he recognizes he’s been too quick to shut out people with whom he disagrees, too quick to snub people who want to be involved in city decisions.
“It is something I have learned,” the mayor told us. “I’ve got to do a better job of letting people know that I have heard them and their opinions have been considered. So I absolutely will use this to change how we do things going forward. I have to.”
Fenty’s chief challenger scoffed at the mayor’s change of heart. Gray said it's good that the mayor “finally recognizes” his personality is a problem, but he said the change has a whiff of political expediency.
• Post poll awaited.
The Washington Post editorial page already has endorsed Fenty for a second term, saying that his sometimes-obnoxious approach shouldn’t obscure the fact that the city is better on many levels -- schools, crime and city services.
But many people are awaiting the traditional Washington Post poll on the mayor’s race. The poll -- which should come out any time now -- could be a major factor in the campaign.
If it shows a tight race, then the ground game of getting voters to the polls and persuading undecideds will be key factors heading into the early voting that will start Aug. 30 and conclude with the primary on Sept. 14.
If Gray should have a substantial lead (his own private polling puts him up about 11 points), then he would hold the upper hand going into the final days.
No one is expecting the poll to show Fenty with a substantial lead.
So watch for the Post poll. It may be more important than it has been in previous contests.
• Nats stadium protest.
The battle over Arizona’s controversial immigration law made it to Washington over the weekend. Protesters disrupted the Nats-Diamondbacks game on Sunday afternoon, with several people arrested for running onto the field and attempting to unfurl banners.
The protesters want Major League Baseball to move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Phoenix unless that state revises or repeals its tough anti-immigration law, which requires police to make immigration status checks.
It was the first significant protest that we could recall at Nats Park since its 2008 opening.
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