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Question of Adams Morgan Changing

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  • Adam Eidinger
    Dear Neighbors, In the message pasted below Disclexia notes that Adams Morgan is looking more and more like a Mall these days with national chains moving in
    Message 1 of 4 , Jan 1, 2006
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      Dear Neighbors,

      In the message pasted below Disclexia notes that Adams Morgan is looking more and more like a Mall these days with national chains moving in ie: the closing of the historic Comet Deli this month to be replaced eventually by national haircare chain Bubbles http://www.bubblessalons.com/. I agree with the majority of people living near the Comet who wish it would be taken over by new management and preserved, yet its also the right of the owner to sell out to make the most money possible. With owners looking to make the most money, whether its rent or sale of property, the tendency will continue to be national chains moving in to A-M. Corporate power will rule the day as these chains can pour much more money into acquiring a site than say a new local business or even a local chain like the Austin Grill.

      Yet another factor in these chains coming to A-M is the willingness of people to buy from them, so the problem of the character changing toward "urban corporate malls" has as much to do with the people who shop at these places as the ambitions of these national chains. The chains are here precisely because A-M has character with the hope it might rub off on them. Is the Starbucks more attractive because Trist is down the street? Does Pizza Hit want a piece of Super Slices business? Or do people just buy coffee at the nearest location to work or home? Its probably a little of both. Ironically if the national chains manage to supplant the independent retail/restaurants that have local character they may actually undermine their own success here.

      In 2005 a handful of independent retail stores opened in A-M, but about the same number closed while a bunch of national chains opened and none closed.

      I Say Break the Chains!
      There are numerous groups that joined the Organic Consumers Association by declaring December "Buy Local Month" http://organicconsumers.org/btc.htm . But why not buy local all year round and keep your money in your community by frequenting businesses that are better connected to DC. If you haven't shopped at independent stores lately why not make it your 2006 resolution to buy local, fair made and while your at it, organic! Who needs Amazon.com when you got Idle Time books and Crooked Beat Records. Who needs Harris Teeter & Whole Foods when you got So's Your Mom and Yes Organic Foods. Don't forget the numerous independent restaurants you might want to drop in spend some dough at, because before you know it, they could be replaced by publicly traded companies that ignore local flavor (also international pallets). Don't torture your taste buds let alone the environment when you eat that factory farmed cheeseburger at McDees and BurgerDespot. Just say no to Hormone Pizza Hut and KFC's Antibiotic laced fried meat. I'll take the quick eats at the Astor for the same prices over those imperial chains.

      Living on Mintwood Place since 1999 I'd say its looking more like a GOP hood. Of course I don't know the political affiliation of everyone moving in and don't imply all Republicans are rich or senseless to local character, but an informal survey of the contractors working to fix the 5 tiny units across the street from my house that advertised starting from the low "$600's to over $1M" showed that everyone was sold to a wealthy Republican from outside the district. I was told that none of them are going to make DC their primary residence, but time will tell if that is true. I could never afford to buy my own apartment at todays prices, not even if it was half as much of its current value. I know many neighbors in the same boat. The pressure to leave DC for cheaper digs while cashing out the equity is huge. So I guess in the long term A-M residents are going to have to pay the price of the neighborhood's appeal. It reminds me of a paradise island somewhere in the tropics that is so beautiful that everyone wants to visit and by arriving in such great numbers they destroy the reef system and trash the place. For years A-M was in the shadow of Georgetown as far as nightlife. This helped it evolve with scores of local restaurants/businesses taking root. With the solidifying of A-M as the hot spot in town it is changing in ways that may forever destroy the character of a place that seemed to resist the monoculture of national chains for as long as I can remember. This paradise we found can stay that way if us locals work to keep it. Everyone be mindful of the consumer choices you make in 2006, they impact us all.

      Happy New Year,

      Adam Eidinger


      Message: 1
      Date: Fri, 30 Dec 2005 16:48:54 -0000
      From: "disclexia" <almccaskill@...>
      Subject: I might as well be living in a mall.

      I've lived in A-M for 15 years. It's starting to look and feel more
      and more like everything I specifically chose to avoid by choosing and
      staying to live in this neighborhood. Are any other residents starting
      to feel this way? If you go to other cities, they and their residents
      seem to value maintaining the unique and longstanding characters of
      their neighborhoods. Until recently, the balance between local, quirky
      and new, national seems great to me. Now, the mix seems to be growing
      disturbingly out of whack.

      Maybe, it's just a symptom of the City as a whole. It makes me sad and
      confuses me
    • Eddie Becker
      We’ve lost a lot of business that once primarily served the residents of Adams Morgan like toy stores, five and dimes, clothing stores, pharmacies, used
      Message 2 of 4 , Jan 4, 2006
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        We’ve lost a lot of business that once primarily served the residents of Adams Morgan like toy stores, five and dimes, clothing stores, pharmacies, used furniture stores, etc. most of these retail places have been converted to bars and now primarily serve non-residents.   
         
        Just about the only way to sustain a market rent on the commercial strip in Adams Morgan is either sell plenty of liquor, (huge mark-up) or plenty of high mark-up items like coffee, hamburgers, pizza, shoes, etc – a formula that franchise chains, buying in bulk and paying near minimum wages have figured out. 
         
        In the case of Comet, the owner is leasing out the store, at the highest and best use, to Bubbles, a trendy hair salon, that got its start in DC and is now a Virginia headquartered franchise.  Some residents will be served.
         
        While Comet’s liquor store license, I assume, will be sold for small fortune, to a supermarket chain that wants to devote three isles to beer and wine!
         
        The pressure to end the liquor license moratorium (more stores that once serve community needs converted to bars), and requests by restaurant/bars to convert to liquor only taverns (fewer places to eat) will increase the trend. 
         
        The Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) deal with these issues, their next meeting is January 4th at 7:00 pm at Mary's Center for Maternal and Child Health, 2355 Ontario Road, NW (enter through the "pink building").  
      • WeaverANC@aol.com
        Phil, I wrote an offered a reduced moratorium at the ANC that would have allowed new ABC establishments to be created on Columbia Rd. between 16th and
        Message 3 of 4 , Jan 5, 2006
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          Phil,

           

           

          I wrote an offered a reduced moratorium at the ANC that would have allowed new ABC establishments to be created on Columbia Rd. between 16th and before 18th streets, but no new ones on 18th Street or west of Columbia Rd. It also would have limited the number of CTs (taverns) in Adams Morgan to fewer than 10. 

           

          I thought it was the sensible compromise to the Pro and Anti moratorium camps…. But it was procedurally replaced on the floor by the chairman and so in the end I voted for the more restrictive moratorium that lost 4 to 3.

           

          BUT….. I don’t think that the moratorium or lack there of, is the cause of closing of small businesses in the community. I think it is new property owner greed.

           

          None of retail places that have closed (or that will close) in the last year will be replaced with an ABC establishment.  They will most likely be replaced with chain retail --- como “Bubbles”--- who can afford huge rent ceilings.

           

          Doug Bell, former owner of 1808 Adams Mill, did not have to sell his building to Douglas Jemal. A non-profit and the current business owners had a counter-offer and backing to buy the building. Doug Bell went with the security of Doug Jemal.

           

          Lisa Drazin did not have to rent Comet to Bubbles. Bill Thomas of Bourbon and Blue Room wanted to put a "Comet Bakery and Wines" into that space, and another well established business owner in the neighborhood wanted to put a butcher shop there. Lisa went with the security of a franchise.

           

          I am not sure what you mean by my stance on "Adams Morgan business/businesses in general"...... every part of my Christmas shopping was done in the community and I have great relationships with Phil and Jan Fenty (Fleet Feet), Kathy Atkinson (All About Jane), and Shafika Kurt (Little Shop of Flowers) --- and I played on the Pixie’s/Wonderland softball team.

           

          On the flip side I have had a serious run in with a property owner/ business owner over a residential property  ---- where a group of long time residents were being evicted---- that resulted in him threatening to take me to court.

           

          I guess if you are asking what kinds of businesses do I want to see, I would rather see small businesses like “Little Shop of Flowers” than FTD.

           

          During my time on the ANC I think any commercial property owner who comes seeking a variance to build up or more dense knows (or should know) that I am going to require  affordable retail space with a long term lease, or affordable housing for almost any serious variance that is requested.

           

          I hope that answers some of your questions…

           

          If not call me and we can talk.

          202-667-7076

           

          Bryan Weaver

        • William Jordan
          When it comes to creating a climate that is healthy for community and small businesses growth and development we are our own worse enemies. In a Ward that
          Message 4 of 4 , Jan 5, 2006
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            When it comes to creating a climate that is healthy for community and small businesses growth and development we are our own worse enemies.   In a Ward that should become a show case of  small business creativity, variety and vibrancy we are headed toward a multiplicity of sameness. Primarily,  because we sold our entrepreneurial souls to the devil looking for a short cut to urban blist. And now we stand at the crossroads, reaping.

            The devil in this case is the marriage of  government regulation/help and culture war politics.  Even in the  best of circumstances government involvement is the death knell of the entrepreneur.  Then you heap upon this the new urbanist  attempts to use the regulation of business as a way to ensure that only the "right" people patronize their neighborhood, you end up with a "culture war tax" that is just too high.  The problem is not as much the cost of real estate as that the "culture war tax" limits the up side potential for retail businesses while dragging creativity.  Usually, working against the market like this instead of leveraging the market to achieve quality of life goals back fires.

            Next you get politicians drafting counter-productive legislation such as the so called "Ben's Chili Bowl" bill to cover up bad policy and business conditions they helped to create. They are not alone of course, selfish business boosters in the Ward pushed with counter-productive approaches by pushing  parochial "my corridor" against others instead of a Ward wide approach.  There is on way to achieve a  health retail mix in the Ward unless there is stragetic collaboration and friendly competiton between Adams Morgan, Mt. Pleasant, Columbia Heights, U St, Georgia Ave. and lower 14th cooridors.

            Is it too late to save our souls, No.

            1. Get the politicians out of the middle of things.  If we are going to keep the pandering politicians, that we have then we need to move them way to the sidelines.  They have a role, but when in the middle of things they always do more harm than good.

            2. Request a one year truce in the "Culture Wars" and Ward neo-colonial policies.  The drains away too much energy. Plus this in itself will stay the interfering hand of the politicians.

            3. Adopt a regional forum and approach which are designed to leverage the opporunities of all of our commercial districts.  

            4. Bring in some one like the NCRC to be our quasi-governmental partner.  After years of fumbling in the dark, they are starting to get it. Let make the best of this agency.

            5. Adopt approaches that leverage the market, let the market work for us.  BTW, the market is not at the Wilson Building.

            Remember, there are not short cuts. Stop looking for them. The Devil always wants his/her pound of flesh.  The approach needs to change if our goal is not a multiplicity of sameness.  It is foolish to continue to do the same thing over and over agian and expect a different result.

            William

            WeaverANC@... wrote:

            Phil,

             

             

            I wrote an offered a reduced moratorium at the ANC that would have allowed new ABC establishments to be created on Columbia Rd. between 16th and before 18th streets, but no new ones on 18th Street or west of Columbia Rd. It also would have limited the number of CTs (taverns) in Adams Morgan to fewer than 10. 

             

            I thought it was the sensible compromise to the Pro and Anti moratorium camps…. But it was procedurally replaced on the floor by the chairman and so in the end I voted for the more restrictive moratorium that lost 4 to 3.

             

            BUT….. I don’t think that the moratorium or lack there of, is the cause of closing of small businesses in the community. I think it is new property owner greed.

             

            None of retail places that have closed (or that will close) in the last year will be replaced with an ABC establishment.  They will most likely be replaced with chain retail --- como “Bubbles”--- who can afford huge rent ceilings.

             

            Doug Bell, former owner of 1808 Adams Mill, did not have to sell his building to Douglas Jemal. A non-profit and the current business owners had a counter-offer and backing to buy the building. Doug Bell went with the security of Doug Jemal.

             

            Lisa Drazin did not have to rent Comet to Bubbles. Bill Thomas of Bourbon and Blue Room wanted to put a "Comet Bakery and Wines" into that space, and another well established business owner in the neighborhood wanted to put a butcher shop there. Lisa went with the security of a franchise.

             

            I am not sure what you mean by my stance on "Adams Morgan business/businesses in general"...... every part of my Christmas shopping was done in the community and I have great relationships with Phil and Jan Fenty (Fleet Feet), Kathy Atkinson (All About Jane), and Shafika Kurt (Little Shop of Flowers) --- and I played on the Pixie’s/Wonderland softball team.

             

            On the flip side I have had a serious run in with a property owner/ business owner over a residential property  ---- where a group of long time residents were being evicted---- that resulted in him threatening to take me to court.

             

            I guess if you are asking what kinds of businesses do I want to see, I would rather see small businesses like “Little Shop of Flowers” than FTD.

             

            During my time on the ANC I think any commercial property owner who comes seeking a variance to build up or more dense knows (or should know) that I am going to require  affordable retail space with a long term lease, or affordable housing for almost any serious variance that is requested.

             

            I hope that answers some of your questions…

             

            If not call me and we can talk.

            202-667-7076

             

            Bryan Weaver


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