Hi everyone, I d be curious to hear the community s opinions of this article I wrote for the October 27 Washington Business Journal. While the editing made itMessage 1 of 1 , Nov 10, 2003View Source
I'd be curious to hear the community's opinions of this article I wrote for the October 27 Washington Business Journal.
While the editing made it come out a bit more shrill and less coherent than I had originally written it, I do still believe strongly in its main theme: that we as a community need to take responsibility not just for fighting bad things that we don't want in/like about our neighborhood, but for deciding what it is that we want here, and in fighting hard to get it. This, my friends, is the Gibson Manifesto ;-)
I apologize for including the article text here, and not just a link, but reading articles on the WBJ site requires setting up an account, which some folks might not want to do...
I look forward to your comments...
Role reversal could boost D.C.'s rebirth
As Washington's recent redevelopment has continued on its course, Washington Business Journal has featured numerous discussions of the kinds of businesses that we do and do not want to see in our local communities. What has not been analyzed is an interesting division in how this discussion has been advanced, and by whom.
On one side of this discussion are the primarily governmental actors who are making positive arguments and taking persuasive public policy steps to attract desired businesses to the District, and to keep in place the kinds of businesses that make our city unique.
In recent days, we have seen the early steps of the rebirth of downtown D.C. as a retail destination with the opening of coveted H&M in the old Woodies Building. Other highly anticipated businesses, such as two downtown movie theaters and the District's first and only bowling alley, will soon be in place, thanks to forward-thinking District incentives.
On the other side of the discussion are the associations representing the residents of individual city neighborhoods.
But whereas the efforts of city agencies are usually proactive, most current efforts by residents are reactive, involving concerted action to eliminate problem businesses. In Adams Morgan, our Advisory Neighborhood Commission has taken the lead in getting two problematic and crime-harboring bars to close once and for all.
Despite these successes by both sets of actors, my recommendation would be that each side consider a bit of a role reversal.
What a neighborhood needs
The greatest sea change must be undertaken by concerned residents and the associations that represent them.
It is essential that residents become more proactive, exerting energy not just to get rid of bad businesses, but more importantly to attract good businesses. Back in 1998, the residents of Adams Morgan engaged in a veritable civil war over whether or not a moratorium on new liquor licenses in our community should be imposed.
In the end, the debate over the liquor license moratorium became the "Y2K Bug" of Adams Morgan politics. Although it was ultimately enacted, the moratorium has accomplished little if anything.
Moving forward, our community needs to become a model for the city and the region in fighting tooth and nail not to keep out bad businesses, but to successfully woo and attract the businesses that our neighborhood wants and needs. Fortunately, right here in our backyard, we have two textbook examples of the kind of effort we need to undertake.
In Logan Circle, a masterful community campaign convinced Whole Foods to locate a very successful store in what originally appeared an entirely counterintuitive location. And in Chevy Chase, residents simply refused to allow their cherished Avalon Theater to close down.
What does our neighborhood have to do to implement such a strategy? We need to set common goals. What kinds of businesses does the neighborhood lack, but desire? In our case, a bakery or a gourmet grocery store are most often cited as on the wish list. Who can bring us these coveted businesses?
First, how about people who currently operate this kind of business elsewhere in the area? We should contact owners of unique owner-operated businesses and convince them to open a second location in your neighborhood, or contact a chain and ask them to come to your community.
Second, we need to talk to the retail brokers whose life's work is to successfully pair businesses with vacancies.
And finally, we can talk to the owners of buildings with vacancies. While it's only the rarest of building owners who will accept a lower rent by filling a vacancy with a potentially less lucrative business that has the community's backing, if nothing else, knowing what the community wants may help the owner "break a tie" between two competing bidders.
Have these efforts paid off for me personally? No, not yet. I do have to say, however, after contacting a great many businesses that I would love to see in the neighborhood, I know I have done my best. And I cannot help thinking that when our neighborhood does finally succeed at luring the business of our choice, the feeling of joy and satisfaction will somehow be more pure and enduring than the feeling neighborhoods usually feel when they force a bad business to close.
And, if you want to open a bakery or gourmet grocery in Adams Morgan, e-mail me.
Josh Gibson is an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Adams Morgan. E-mail: joshgibson@...
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