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condo, condominium, real estate, gay news, Washington Blade

Condominium remodeling is now an increasing portion of some remodeling firms’ business.

Condominium living, particularly in urban areas, largely was a preference of Gen Xers who sought to be at the heart of city life with its conveniences and distinct culture. However, of late, empty nesters uninterested in maintaining large homes have been leaving the suburbs to dwell in urban neighborhoods.

Empty nesters’ entry into the condo market has spurred a home design trend as homeowners seek the convenience and accessibility of urban living, but without forgoing the amenities and finishes of their larger, custom homes. The trend is growing across the Metropolitan Area – including the District, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Alexandria and McLean. Projects range from pull-and-replace kitchens to remodeled master suites to whole-unit renovations. Condominium remodeling is now an increasing portion of some remodeling firms’ business.


Finding, Evaluating the Right Unit

For those of you who are looking to buy a condo and are entertaining the idea of a remodel, keep in mind that each building is unique and some projects may be more feasible than others (even within the same building). Consider consulting someone who is an expert in your particular building before making an offer.


Love Thy Neighbor

If you recently have moved to a condo, you might appreciate this play on the old real estate adage: “Location, location, relationships.” Why the edit? Relationships are a key component to managing a condo remodel. A successful condo remodel project requires the delicate handling of a residential project and the complex systems of commercial building. Managing relationships with a condo board, building manager, engineer and others requires a specific skill set so be sure to work with a remodeler who has experience in the specialized job of condo renovations. Remodelers must address noise and debris regulations, access and tenant/worker safety, which are common issues with low- and high-rise residential projects. Strategic process and communication are critical to establishing and maintaining a good rapport with your new neighbors, building management and engineers.


Customizing Your Perfect Condo

Once you dive into the design phase, you’ll soon learn that one of the greatest benefits of condo remodeling is that the dollars previously spent on landscaping can instead be spent on finishes, appliances, flooring and the other interior comforts. Those dollars can go a long way in customizing ample storage, ensuring privacy for guests, replicating a beloved gourmet kitchen or making the space feel more open – all common concerns when transitioning from a single family home.

The current trend toward condo living is exciting. There are many possibilities for turning your condo unit into a condo home.


Witeck won’t run for Congress; backs Ebbin

Bob Witeck, gay news, Washington Blade

‘I plan to give my unqualified support to Adam Ebbin now,’ said Bob Witeck. (Photo courtesy of Bob Witeck)

Gay public relations executive Bob Witeck informed the Blade on Sunday that he won’t run for the U.S. House seat in Northern Virginia being vacated by retiring Democratic Congressman James Moran and will instead support state Sen. Adam Ebbin’s bid for the seat.

Ebbin, who’s gay and a Democrat, served for eight years in the Virginia House of Delegates before winning election in 2011 to the Virginia Senate. He announced his candidacy for the congressional seat last week.

“Over the weekend, and upon careful consideration and lots of conversations with my partner, I have decided not to run for the 8th District congressional seat,” Witeck said in a statement.

Witeck, a longtime LGBT rights advocate, was among more than a dozen Democrats who either announced their candidacy for the 8th District seat or said they were considering running for the seat  in the June 10 Democratic primary. The winner of the primary is considered the strong favorite to win the general election in November in the heavily Democratic district.

In a statement released to the Blade, Witeck said the race has attracted other highly qualified candidates.

“While I am sure that I can work hard, raise funds and be competitive, I am equally if not more happy to get behind the ultimate Democratic nominee – so long as that candidate is as committed to LGBT equality, human rights and economic fairness issues that I care about,” he said.

Witeck said he’s a longtime supporter of the mission of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national organization that helps elect openly LGBT candidates running for public office.

“I therefore plan to give my unqualified support to Adam Ebbin now,” he said. “He is working doggedly to win the primary, and I’ve spoken to him today to give him my help.”


Ebbin wins informal Alexandria straw poll

Adam Ebbin, Alexandria, Virginia, Senate, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Virginia Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Gay Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) came in first place in an April 6 straw poll among voters in the June primary in which 10 Democratic candidates are running for the 8th District U.S. House seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

“We won last night not because our campaign bought the most tickets or because we have popular friends — we won because you and I know that Congress needs a representative who can get progressive legislation passed,” Ebbin said in an April 7 statement.

“The win shows the continued momentum my grassroots driven campaign has been gathering,” he said.

The straw poll was conducted at a “beer tasting” fundraising party for the Alexandria Democratic Committee at the Port City Brewing Company in which participants paid $40 for advance tickets or $45 at the door to gain admission. The Democratic Committee organized the poll.

Although not scientific, political observers noted that Ebbin, who received 90 votes, beat Alexandria Mayor William ‘Bill’ Euille, who came in second place with 68 votes, and former Virginia Lt. Gov. Donald Beyer, who came in third place with 62 votes.

Beyer, a businessman who has widespread name recognition, is considered by political pundits to be the frontrunner in the race.

Among the other candidates, Patrick Hope came in fourth with 58 votes; Charniele Herring received 21 votes; Laver Chatman received 12 votes; gay rights attorney and TV talk show host Mark Levine finished seventh with 8 votes; Satish Korpe came in eighth place with 3 votes; Derek Hyra finished ninth with 2 votes; and Bruce Shuttleworth finished tenth with 1 vote.


Ebbin posts $178,000 in Va. race

Adam Ebbin, Democratic Party, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Gay State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) had just over $178,000 in campaign funds for the most recent reporting period. (Photo courtesy of Adam Ebbin)

Gay rights attorney and talk show host Mark Levine reported cash receipts of more than $322,000 in campaign funds this week, placing him in second place behind front runner Donald Beyer in the 10-candidate race for the Northern Virginia congressional seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Federal Election Commission records show Beyer, Virginia’s former lieutenant governor, had receipts of more than $672,000 in campaign funds as of March 31, the end of the most recent campaign finance reporting period.

Gay State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who’s also running for the 8th District congressional seat, had just over $178,000 in campaign funds for the same reporting period.

However, unlike Ebbin and Beyer, FEC finance records show that Levine’s total receipts include a $250,000 loan he made to his campaign. The records show that just $72,808 of his $322,808 total came from individual contributors.

Levine, whose name recognition is not as high as that of Ebbin and Beyer, said his personal loan helps him become competitive with Beyer unlike most of the other candidates.

“I am beholden to no one,” he said when asked about his decision to lend the funds to his campaign. “It has never been about money for me. I use money as a means to achieve an end – to change the world for the better.”

A statement released by Ebbin’s campaign says Ebbin’s campaign funds came from 653 individual donors, with 70 percent of the total coming from “grass roots” donors that, according to his campaign manager, gave $200 or less per donation.

“I’m honored by the outpouring of support I’ve received from Northern Virginians,” Ebbin said in a statement. “For more than a decade, I’ve been fighting for progressive causes in the General Assembly. I look forward to continuing my work for our values as the next member of Congress from the 8th District,” he said.

FEC records show Ebbin came in sixth place among the 10 candidates in total receipts and cash on hand for his campaign. After Beyer and Levine, those coming in ahead of Ebbin in campaign fund receipts were Virginia Urban League president Lavern Chatman ($298,696—including a $100,000 donation to herself); Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille ($214,572); and Del. Patrick Hope ($186,534).

Mark Levine, Democratic Party, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

Mark Levine (Photo courtesy of Mark Levine)


Why I support Adam Ebbin for Congress

Adam Ebbin, Democratic Party, Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade

State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) (Photo courtesy of Adam Ebbin)


It has been my privilege to know and work with Virginia State Sen. Adam Ebbin. I have supported his groundbreaking campaigns since he was elected as Virginia’s first openly gay member of the General Assembly more than 10 years ago. Adam was a role model as I campaigned to be elected as Virginia’s first openly lesbian elected official in 2006, and I was privileged to work with him as a member of the Arlington School Board to fight at the state-government level for our students and teachers.

I am proud to endorse Adam in his campaign for Virginia’s 8th Congressional District, not because he is a gay rights pioneer but because he is the best qualified to replace Rep. Jim Moran, who remains a significant straight ally. If elected, Adam will be the first openly gay member of Congress from the South.

Adam Ebbin has represented Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax County with distinction, longer than any other candidate in this race. A masterful coalition builder, Adam skillfully unites those with divergent interests around common goals. On issues as varied as advocating for an Arlington-Falls Church Office of the Public Defender to expanding healthcare coverage for immigrants, Adam is a strong, results-focused leader. With Adam in Congress, Northern Virginia will have an effective representative who stands up for them when it matters most.

Adam has championed and passed liberal legislation with unlikely allies. From expanding solar energy options to uniting groups from the right and left, Adam has brought together interests that normally won’t talk to each other. Adam’s commonsense appeal has united them to pass such strong legislation as fighting human trafficking and ensuring insurance availability for the LGBTQ community. Adam’s record speaks for itself. He has truly earned the right to represent us in Congress, where he will apply his skills to an equally dysfunctional House of Representatives.

Adam has been endorsed by more elected officials than any other candidate, by two major unions — the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) — by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Congressman Keith Ellison, co-chair of the Progressive Caucus in the U.S. House.

Adam has always stood up for our needs and values in the General Assembly and will do so in the U.S. Congress. Please join me in voting for Adam Ebbin as the 8th District’s next Representative.

Sally Baird is a member of the Arlington School Board and the first openly lesbian elected official in Virginia.


Queery: Lauren Morris

Lauren Morris, gay news, Washington Blade

Lauren Morris (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Lauren Morris came to D.C. in 2007 fresh out of high school to attend Howard University and found a home.

She majored in psychology, graduated in 2011 and is now a project leader at City Year, an educational non-profit where she works on beautification projects for D.C. public schools. Morris started volunteering for D.C. Black Pride in 2008 while still in college and last year joined the board. She helped plan entertainment for this year’s event as one of the organization’s eight board members (Black Pride details are at

Morris says Black Pride is important “because it kind of celebrates two major communities that I’m part of whose struggles are very different.”

“Black Pride is the time of the year when we can come together and talk about those issues that are original to us as a black queer community,” she says. “It’s important to do that for all people from my age on up to 99 and it’s important to have that space, which sometimes is hard to find.”

Morris has been dating her girlfriend Kayla Rodriguez for about nine months. Morris enjoys food, yoga, singing, dancing, teaching Sunday school, working for Black Pride, playing the guitar and rock climbing in her spare time. She lives in Alexandria.

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

I’ve been out since I was 18. The hardest people to tell were my parents. Though I knew they were open and affirming of other LGBTQ persons, I wasn’t so sure that they’d be as thrilled for their first-born daughter. Luckily, they were and have been very supportive ever since.

Who’s your LGBT hero?

Every LGBTQ youth and student who has to stay quiet about their orientation for survival.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?

I’m not big on nightspots, but you might catch me at MOVA or the Loft on a blue moon.

Describe your dream wedding.

My dream wedding, eh? To the woman I’ll be spending the rest of my life with, set for a date sometime during the end of August/beginning of September, small wedding ceremony (bridal party and immediate family members), huge reception (maybe a jazz band?), evening ceremony.

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

The educational system and its effects on people of color.

What historical outcome would you change?

None. The stories of my people are stories of survival, of roses growing from concrete, of people overcoming against all odds. That’s something to be proud of, not change.

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Being on campus at Howard University when Barack Obama was elected president for the first time.

On what do you insist?

Children and their laughter are a gift and the most beautiful and healing part of life.

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

My last Tweet was “‘If someone hates me for my happiness, I ask God that he sends him happiness so that he forgets mine.’ — Arab Proverb”

If your life were a book, what would the title be?


If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

Stay home.

What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

I believe in the universe and its powerful energies.

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

This is hard. Be strong.

What would you walk across hot coals for?

The better question is who and that’s everyone I love.

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

That LGBT persons cannot be or are hardly ever in domestic violence situations.

What’s your favorite LGBT movie?

“Pariah” and “Imagine Me & You”

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Women being forced to smile because it makes others uncomfortable if they don’t.

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

My first-place, citywide spelling bee trophy. I was in third grade and my winning word was “lieutenant.” There’s a picture of me in my hometown newspaper with pigtails and a snaggletoothed smile, clutching my trophy. Adorable, really.

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

Exactly what I had known at that age. I didn’t need to know any more because I knew all of what I needed to know. I’m just grateful for the lessons I was taught.

Why Washington?

Washington is the perfect city for me. It’s far but not too far from home/Michigan and it’s not overwhelming like New York City but is big enough to have suburbs. It’s a cozy blend of suburbia and the city.


NIH grant studies LGBT smoking cessation

cigarette, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Phil Reese)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Institutes of Health issued a $536,526 grant to the University of Illinois for a two-year program ending in July to study smoking cessation among LGBT people, CNS News, a division of Media Research Center, reported last week.

“The purpose of this study is to develop and evaluate the benefits of culturally targeted smoking cessation intervention for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender smokers,” the NIH grant description said. “Findings will contribute to the scientific literature on reducing smoking-related health disparities among underserved populations.”

The funding began on Sept. 30, 2010 and will conclude on July 31, 2013, CNS reported.


Typing and telepathy

Ghost Writer, Susan Lynskey, Helen Hedman, Paul Morella, Gay News, Washington Blade

From left, Susan Lynskey, Helen Hedman and Paul Morella in ‘Ghost-Writer.’ (Photos by Christopher Banks; courtesy MetroStage)

Through June 16
1201 North Royal Street Alexandria

It’s not every day that a respectable secretary with a talent for punctuation becomes fodder for New York City’s tabloid press, but in Michael Hollinger’s 2010 drama “Ghost-Writer” (now at MetroStage) that’s just what happens.

When popular novelist Franklin Woolsey (Paul Morella) drops dead in the middle of dictating his latest book, loyal typist Myra Babbage (Susan Lynkskey) forges ahead, channeling her beloved boss’ words from the beyond. While Myra’s unorthodox approach to wrapping things up is a hit with Woolsey’s editor and the curious public, the novelist’s jealous widow is none too thrilled.

Set in 1919 Manhattan, the odd workplace tale unfolds in Woolsey’s comfortable but unpretentious studio. Myra is seated at her typing table facing an unseen investigator (the audience). In wordy monologue and flashbacks she relays just how she came to be a literary medium.

Fresh out of secretarial school, Myra’s hired to take dictation from the businesslike Woolsey. A whiz at the clunky manual typing machine, she never misses a word. As weeks become months and then years, she respectfully but firmly corrects his punctuation and eerily develops the ability to anticipate his prose. The process moves to the outskirts of collaboration, and a close but chaste relationship evolves. There is no longer any mention of Thursday night dance classes or potential husbands. As Myra becomes more heavily immersed in Woolsey and his work, outside distractions fade away. Her focus narrows.

Occasionally the formidable and fashionably turned out Mrs. Woolsey (Helen Hedman) pays unannounced visits to her husband’s studio. A dilettante poet who once transcribed her husband’s novels by hand, she resents her husband’s secretary. After all it is Myra with whom Woolsey spends the lion’s share of his waking hours. And while she finds some comfort that Myra is less pretty than her predecessor, Mrs. Woolsey would still rather she go away. But Myra isn’t cowed; the studio is her domain and Woolsey belongs partly to her too.

“Ghost-Writer” is cleanly staged by John Vreeke (who is gay). In lesser hands, this delicately rendered memory play/ghostly mystery/love story might be a sappy mishmash, but Vreeke’s direction is insightfully keen and well-ordered and his outstanding three-person cast gives thoughtful, restrained performances. He’s also assembled a particularly cohesive design team. Together Alexander Keen’s evocative lighting, Jane Fink’s suggestion of walls and Robert Garner’s distant dance class music and steam whistle from the East river, play beautifully to the concepts of memory and the metaphysical.

At first glance, Lynskey’s Myra is the picture of no-nonsense practicality — pulled back hair and plain attire. But keep looking and you’ll detect a sly smile and twinkly eye behind the steel-rimmed spectacles; her character is no mere typing automaton. Her Myra has an inner world filled with romance and the flourishes of art and music. For her, awaiting Woolsey’s next utterance is an exquisite pleasure. Typing each page is an adventure. Lynskey captures all the layers.

Morella is terrific as Woolsey. He affectively melts from brusque boss to kindly colleague. And as Mrs. Woolsey, Hedman is a marvelous balance of overbearing and vulnerable. It’s a touching performance.

“Ghost Writer” is inspired by the real life happenings of famed gay novelist Henry James and his longtime secretary Theodora Bosanquet. Like Myra, the devoted Bosanquet did what she could to keep the literary master’s words flowing. Unlike Myra, she didn’t hold a torch for her boss. Bosanquet reportedly preferred women.


Catie Curtis headlines Del Ray Music Festival

Singer/songwriter Catie Curtis (Photo by Joseph Anthony Baker; courtesy Curtis via Mautner)

Singer/songwriter Catie Curtis (Photo by Joseph Anthony Baker; courtesy Curtis via Mautner)

The seventh annual Del Ray Music Festival will be held Friday from 7-9 p.m. at the Del Ray Farmer’s Market (Mt. Vernon and Oxford Sts., Alexandria, Va.) and noon-9 p.m. on the Mt. Vernon Recreation Center fields (2701 Commonwealth Ave., Alexandria, Va.).

The festival features jazz, pop, reggae, blues, folk and country performers, and the majority of the musicians are local, many being residents of the Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria.

Lesbian folk-rock singer-songwriter Catie Curtis is this year’s headliner. Local favorites like The Weathervanes and The Highballers will also perform.

The festival will feature food and fun activities for children. Admission is free. For more information, visit


Setting the retail pace

Kathy Dalby, Pacers, gay news, Washington Blade

‘People want local small businesses to win,’ says Kathy Dalby, ‘and we have to earn that every day.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“The formula is simple, really,” says Pacers Running Stores executive vice-president of retail and managing partner for events Kathy Dalby, “but, like any small business, we have to work our tails off.”

Five Washington-area running specialty stores serve as unique centers for an ever-burgeoning number of running enthusiasts. Combining customer-centric retail with community-building races has been key to expanding the successful enterprise. The independent business has grown to both a multi-store retail operation with an affiliated events company.

The first D.C. location, near Logan Circle at 1427 P St., N.W., opened in summer 2010, joining current Virginia storefronts in Alexandria, Clarendon and Pentagon Row in Arlington, and Old Town Fairfax. All serve as hubs for local runners – offering a full range of running gear along with training advice, motivation and coaching, and a robust schedule of regular fun-runs and special race events.

The original Old Town Alexandria location, a short sprint from the King Street Metro, opened its doors in 1991. Twelve years later then-employee and former University of Virginia collegiate runner Chris Farley, now corporate owner and general manager, acquired the business with the angel investment of his family.

Like other store employees and managers, Dalby started working part-time on the shop floor – a continuation of a college stint working at a running store in California. Moving to the area following studies at Michigan State and with a master’s degree in public health, she landed a law firm job specializing in Medicare reimbursement. Dalby soon discovered, however, that the quintessential Washington occupation was not to her liking.

Having “always been entrepreneurial in spirit and with an events background,” Dalby explains, led her to make a career change. “I love how we have integrated those two things,” she adds, engaging in “authentic and community-focused relationship building.”

Many of the approximately 25 full-time employees and 60-some part-timers come from similar backgrounds. When being fitted for the right running shoe, customers might be assisted by a former or current mortgage broker, architect, librarian or other professional.

“We make an investment in both the people and the customers of Pacers,” Dalby says, noting the “genuinely small business” enjoys long-time employee retention. She points out that the business is “proud to hire customers for both store positions and to assist with race events.”

Last weekend, the Pacers-sponsored 10th annual “Jingle All the Way 8K” drew nearly 4,500 and filled downtown District streets with Santa-costumed runners in a light snow. The first store event was held in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – surprising staff when 4,000 runners turned out, raising $120,000 in relief funds.

Pacers has been a sponsor of D.C. Front Runners, the LGBT-and-friends running club, and Capital Pride.

Alongside fundraising well over half-a-million dollars for local charities, the company recently launched its “DCXC Project” supporting development of distance running and fitness programs at area schools. By working with cross country and track programs, and supported by vendor partners such as New Balance, Pacers helps engage youth in the sport of running while encouraging life-long fitness habits – including among underserved communities.

The same philosophy guides the award-winning business – named a “Top 50” national running store for seven years – in its approach to customer service. Pacers staff, including two trainers rotating among stores, guide those just starting out or getting back into a running regimen by connecting them with other runners and running groups to achieve their training goals.

More than an endorphin empire for professional runners, Pacers has built success one stride at a time. “People want local small businesses to win,” Dalby points out, “and we have to earn that every day.”

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at