Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Interesting Union Station business story

Union Station keeps seeking a tax abatement (exemption) from property taxes, although the City Council has yet to go along. I have been against this because I argue why would the leasing company have paid $160 million for an 84 year lease if the building is too expensive to run--thereby justifying a tax increase.

I happened to eat at Burrito Brothers on Capitol Hill last night, before an Eastern Market meeting, and I asked the manager about why Burrito Brothers was shrinking as a company.

For example, they used to have a store in the Union Station Food Court, but now there is a Taco Bell there instead--freshly made real food burritos from Burrito Brothers, or Taco Bell "meat product." See the 2010 article, "The Makeover of the Union Station Food Court Has Begun" from the Washington City Paper, which discusses how independent businesses in the food court have been thrown over for chains.

He said the management company, to "refresh" the food court, basically terminated the leases of most of the previous tenants. They didn't do this exactly through termination, but by demanding payments of up to $1 million to renovate their spaces. Obviously, a small business wasn't going to be able to pony up that kind of money, so they left.

That's not the kind of behavior deserving of a tax abatement.

Wikipedia image by Kmf164 of the previous version of the Union Station food court.

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