|Navy Yard is getting a movie theater!|
Ward 8 gets ?????
For a lot of people in my Ward 8 neighborhood they see the fast progress taking place across the bridge and wonder when will it finally be our turn? Why are the residents of Anacostia still waiting on a feasible plan for the Big K site three years later when residents in Navy Yard are celebrating the news of a new movie theater, a new grocery store, a new hotel?
The flip side is that most of the "new" developments occurring on our side of the river are either government funded projects (Saint Elizabeths East) or have to offer a big carrot (free rents and utilities) or as was the the case of plans to bring Walmart to Ward 7 wave a big stick (and we all saw how that worked out).
The DC government is hoping that free rent and utilities will be enough to lure a few dining operators to the new G8Way Pavilion --- so far there have been no takers. To be fair this is a new project so it will take some time but this is not a new technique. For years east of the river landlords and developers have offered chain restaurants free rents in hopes of expanding their footprint to Ward 7 and Ward 8. For most retailers and restauranteurs they point to east of the river's low income levels as reasons why they don't want to make the investment in our communities. So even with the lure of free rents they haven't been ready to take the plunge. Retailers want to go where the people with disposable income are. It makes sense. So in order to attract quality retailers we either need to raise the income levels already here or attract higher income levels to balance out the low ones. The key word is "balance" and right now we are lopsided too far into the low income zone, we need to find our balance somewhere in the middle. Let's be honest, in order to attract those middle income folks we need to have some of the same amenities and attractions that are currently bringing them to neighborhoods like Navy Yard. And thus that is the Catch 22. How do we get the amneties to attract the higher incomes without the higher incomes to attract the amneties?
It seems (for now anyway) that the only type of new development that Ward 8 can expect is more of the same --- "affordable" and subsidized housing. Which is a damn shame because in many ways that seems to be the very thing that is preventing us from getting stadiums, grocery stores, movie theaters, and hotels of our own. I think we can learn a lot from the explosion of new projects coming to Navy Yard. Namely that sometimes a blank canvas is much better than one saddled with dark shadows (over saturation of social services and group homes) and negative perceptions. We also need to realize that retailers and developers have other options so for now we need to be aware of that when we "go ham" on them in community meetings. I'm not saying surrender completely but be aware that right now we are not negotiating from a position of strength -- we are literally not the only game in town.
I say it again, Wards 7 and 8 could really benefit from a private/public partnership tasked solely with developing and executing our own economic development and marketing plan. One that is not built on a foundation of subsidized housing and social service providers. An organization made up of informed residents, development professionals, commercial real estate experts, marketing firms, and people not afraid to think outside of the box. I currently sit on two such partnerships, pilot programs each tasked with improving retail opportunities in the Congress Heights and Anacostia neighborhoods and let me tell you -- the stuff that comes out of that meeting is S-H-A-R-P.
Doing the same thing over and over again is the very definition of insanity. And I don't know about you but I don't think I was crazy when I bought my home here.
Just a few of the new projects coming to our neighbors across the river:
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