|Ariel view of Coast Guard Headquarters as of April 2013|
(photo courtesy of United States Coast Guard)
This Sunday, I was having my car cleaned at the Martin Luther King Jr Car Wash which is located directly across from the Saint Elizabeths East Campus, a few hundred yards down from the West campus gate for the Coast Guard HQ. As I was waiting I took a long, hard, and honest look at the local businesses within walking distance of the East and West Campus. I tried to imagine their appeal to federal workers in need of food and shopping options during the long work day.
|Georgina's Restaurant (AKA Players Lounge) after its new facelift|
I found myself standing on MLK Ave SE, looking at our business corridor through the eyes of those 14,000 Coast Guard employees. Eyes that are more likely than not coming from communities with much more to offer in quality, quantity and diversity. Their suburban neighborhoods that probably have more food options per block than what we have in all of Ward 8. This is not to assign blame or to set up a "us vs. them" debate (I hate those scenarios btw). If I were to really be honest, I don't patronize most of the shops on MLK in Congress Heights myself and I live right around the corner. It's not about proximity, its about quality. It is also about convenience, a lot of the shops are closed by the time I get home from work.
|A few doors down, Kings Discount Store|
Everything from burner phones to hair weaves
|In the 6 years I have lived in Congress Heights |
I have never patronized Merry's Kitchen
As a Congress Heights resident, blogger, business owner, and yes, advocate I know it is not the politically correct thing to say but it is the truth. I like dealing with facts (regardless of the emotional impact) because when you acknowledge there is a problem you can go about solving it. Pretending it is not there does no good. I don't think that I am the only Congress Heights or Ward 8 resident who doesn't spend even half of their dollars in their own ward. Anacostia sees a lot more of my dollars than Congress Heights because I work in Anacostia and there are a lot more viable options for me in Anacostia than in Congress Heights.
So with that in mind I found myself asking questions that I haven't heard addressed during all of this optimistic talk:
"Would a significant number of those 14,000 employees really want to utilize what we have to offer right now?"
"Are the small businesses currently on MLK Avenue taking action to accommodate the new influx of potential customers? Do they have what it takes to attract these new customers and the competitive edge to keep them?"
"Does the corridor look appealing and feel safe right now?"
"Is Congress Heights competitive to nearby neighborhoods such as Navy Yard and Barracks Row?"
So I have to ask. Putting aside the lofty hopes for tomorrow and dealing with the cold hard facts of today are the surrounding businesses ready? Are any of us ready?
So while I appreciate the plans to ensure that the Coast Guards on site cafeteria may be small in scale, I won't be all that surprised when I see the caravan of foodtrucks make their treck onto the West campus.
After all, a girl's gotta eat.
For a listing of businesses in Congress Heights visit Congress Heights Main Streets.
|Just outside of the West Campus gates a man from the 801 Shelter nearby sleeps and waits|
|Another new convenient store|
|Congress Heights: A great place to do business?|
|Getting ready for new business? The pizza place (center) after their storefront renovation|
|A little farther up MLK Ave|
|Wider shot of the same cluster of stores|
|Photos taken on Sunday|
|Close up shot of the 3100 block of MLK Ave in Congress Heights|
|Banner says, "A Great Place To Do Business"|
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