As Important Developer Meeting Draws Near, Momentum Builds for ‘Save IOTA’ Campaign
In the middle of Wilson Blvd.’s cluster of shops and bars in Clarendon sits IOTA Club, a music venue that has served the local scene for over 20 years. It’s become one of the most popular spots for local bands to play and also where some of music’s biggest names have performed (Jason Mraz, John Mayer, Jack Johnson and Norah Jones, to name a few.) But a new redevelopment plan could potentially put its future in jeopardy, prompting local supporters to take action.
“When we first read about the plan, we got together and said ‘ok, if nobody speaks out about this, then nothing is going to happen'” said Harry Blackwood, one of the co-founders behind the growing Save IOTA campaign.
Last year, Market Common Clarendon–the mixed-use development where IOTA Club is located–was sold to Florida-based company Regency Centers. The new owners filed a preliminary plan in February that would redevelop and rezone a group of buildings along the 2800 blocks of Clarendon and Wilson Blvds., one of which houses IOTA Club. Upgrades would include restructuring the building’s facade and remodeling the interior to accommodate new retail and office spaces.
On Feb. 23, Blackwood and Melissa Mannon mobilized a group of nearly 80 IOTA supporters to voice their concerns at the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association meeting. Around that time, Blackwood and Mannon started up the Save IOTA Facebook page. They’ve used the social platform as a way to drum up more supporters and draw attention to their Change.org petition, which has reached over 600 signatures.
“We wanted to give people a platform to express their support for IOTA and to this concern in the D.C-area in general, which is the rise of gentrification and small businesses being pushed out, rent increasing and neighborhoods becoming a lot more homogeneous,” Blackwood said.
Growing up just down the road from IOTA, the venue was a big part of Blackwood’s childhood memories.
“My mom had met the owners, Jane Negrey Inge and Steve Negrey, through the community when they had their grand opening,” he said. “That was 23 years ago, and IOTA Club has been a part of my life ever since then.”
Momentum for the campaign continues to grow leading up to Regency Centers’ open house on May 10, where they’ll share their revisions for Market Common Clarendon with the public. Blackwood and Mannon are encouraging IOTA supporters to attend the event and are planning to give away ‘Save IOTA’ shirts to the first 50 people who show up. In an email to D.C. Music Download, Regency Centers acknowledged the opposition they’ve received so far, but assured that IOTA Club is a part of their future plans.
“Our plans have been, and still are, to keep IOTA,” Regency Centers spokesperson Eric Davidson told DCMD. “Despite the public rumors circulating, we have been in constant talks with Jane (the owner) to have them be a part of our next steps.”
Despite their promises to keep the venue, Blackwood isn’t totally sold on Regency Centers’ claim. He asserted that Regency Centers was not completely transparent about their plans when discussing them at the February Civic Association meeting.
“We have emailed Regency a few times asking for a meeting, but they’ve never responded to us,” he said.
Blackwood hopes that the May 10 meeting will alleviate some of the uncertainty about Regency Centers’ intentions for IOTA. The open house will take place at 2801 Clarendon Blvd. and runs from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. In the meantime, the plan is currently being reviewed by the county.