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.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

not that it matters but...

There are a couple of posts I said I would be writing (along with more on the height limit), that I am going to wait on til after the New Year because if I publish them now, no one will read them.

1. I've said in this thread on GGW, Where could a small grocery store thrive in Ward 8?," that I was going to do a follow up piece to "In lower income neighborhoods, are businesses supposed to be "community organizations" first?."

My response to the well-intended post in GGW is that everyone thinks that "where" a store should go is what matters most, when "how" to make a store work and "what" type of store to offer so that it will work are actually the most important questions.

My post will list a typology of potential store types and the associated necessary support systems to "produce" the provision of grocery store type options in "poor" or emerging neighborhoods.

The typology will be something like:

1. corner store
2. convenience store
3. convenience store + groceries
4. convenience store + groceries + cafe
- upscale vs. downscale
5. restaurant + market
- typically upscale
6. drug store/urban format with groceries (CVS)
7. drug store/urban format with food and more (Walgreens)
8. small grocery store
- typically upscale
- deep discount (Aldi, Sav-A-Lot)
9. food co-operative
10. public market

Along with business organization form: business cooperative (IGA, Associated Food Stores, etc.); service mark organization and system (examples from Europe); independent business supplied by a wholesaler; nonprofit member cooperative.

2.  Similarly, I intend to write a long piece on DC Public Schools, charters, etc., inspired by my comments in the GGW post "Don't favor local kids in charter admissions, says task force" along with the books Leading for Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Montgomery County Public Schools and Whatever it Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America.

Basically, I will argue that DC Public Schools in Wards 7 and 8 need to be converted into a "Harlem Children's Zone" type operation.  Doing this in one neighborhood, and probably not to the extent necessary (see the press release "DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative Wins $25M from US Department of Education") will have no practical long term effect.

To change longstanding poverty, everything about how DC and the school system approaches the question has to change.  The charter movement in and of itself isn't enough.

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At 6:53 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

In terms of the store issue, yes, as always GGW is more concerned about urban theology than anything else.

A couple data points. The (former) CEO of SuperValu went on record than 75% of Sav-a-Lot customers were on food stamps. This was a huge negative in terms of both ability to grow the business, and also with food price inflation (it is real, and there, but being hidden by the overal low inflation rate).

PRobably a useful initiative the Mayor should look at is exempting certain prepared food transactions from the 10% restaurant tax . We saw with food trucks the boom in activity. You'd see more, and probably help in lower income areas as well. Saw a transaction under $10 or $20 would be exempt from the sales tax.

When you look at what people buy at WF it isn't groceries. It is their prepared foods. I don't see why we should tax a sandwich with some cheese at 10% and the underlying elements at nothing.

Yes, food trucks are abusing the system and we needed to increase their fees -- the trash collection alone is expensive. That being said, our goal should be getting more food into people at a lower price, and not worry about the morality of cooking it yourself.

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

1. wrt your comment about Supervalu/SAL, I had a similar conversation with a store manager for the Murray's on H St. many years ago. There the number was even higher.

It's all relative though. The people who shop there have fewer options, are more focused on getting "a lot" of food for the money.

What I mean by that comment is that people with more options (access to cars, etc.) but from the same community shop at more traditional stores, Walmart, etc.

2. I don't really think the issue is access to healthier foods as much as people think, but again, is more about what people know about nutrition, eating, etc.

I can't claim that I would be any better than people in a low income household wrt knowledge about food and nurition, except that (a.) I grew up in a middle class household where we ate dinner, had vegetables at meals, etc. (for various reasons at that time I wasn't interested in learning how to cook) and (b.) I worked for the Center for Science in the Public Interest from 1987-1991 and in that time I learned a lot about nutrition and foodways.

(But it took me a long time to get comfortable cooking, even though I had read food sections for years.)

So the big issue is that a lot of people don't know how to cook (e.g., I did a presentation at Eastern HS in 1989 maybe and talked with the home ec. teacher who mentioned how most of her students had limited experience sitting down and eating with others, especially in terms of family dinner), how to buy food, what's nutritious, etc.

It's why I keep pushing for the idea of demonstration kitchens as part of public markets, done jointly with WIC, Aging (many older men don't know how to cook and when their wives die they are SOL), and other health-type operations.

3. Related to prepared food consumption, I do think that's an issue absolutely. Partly it is lack of knowledge on how to cook.

DK what to think about your point about prepared food tax rates. Will have to think about it.

yes food truck/mobile food sales are options. In other cities, like the peddler operations of old, there are some operations of mobile grocery sales ops. I've blogged about a couple I've run across. They'd be a solution, sure.

Food trucks, at least in DC, are now supposed to pay sales tax on full sales. And that should help deal with some of the fallout. There is no question that I hadn't thought of the trash issue. In a typical bricks and mortar food sales establishment, they are paying for trash collection.

At 5:44 PM, Anonymous H Street LL said...

Regarding the upcoming grocery post, I see an analogy (in, say, the failure of Yes grocery EOTR) to other upcoming areas. That is, a failure by a pioneer does not mean later entrepreneurs will fail. See for example Phish Tea and numerous other places on H that failed... and now there is tremendous success on H St.

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

H St. LL -- absolutely you are right. But H St. would not have withstood the Phish Tea failure very well, had Joe Englert not staked out H St. as a place to "make a stand."

What happens with failures like Phish Tea, Yes, and Ray's is that it makes it that much harder for later entrants, because the "district" is tarnished, not usually because the individual operators failed (and note I have a lot of H St. Main St. experience with the Phish Tea disaster specifically) but because of fears about "the district."

This is why it is so important to get it right from the outside. Initial failures are really costly.

What Joe Englert has the most other operators don't have is a "system" to reproduce successful concepts. He links financing, buildings, people with concepts, vendors, and staff experienced in dealing with DCRA, zoning, DOH, and OTR. Most individual operators don't have that kind of experience. Plus because of his track record, his operations get special considerations from vendors. He doesn't always succeed either. But the breadth of his operation protects him, plus he holds the buildings so he makes out even if the concept operators don't...

At 2:14 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

In terms of Rays (Micahel Landrum) he is notorious for experimentation and lack of advertising. So, yes, the "failure" marks the neighborhood but in reality he ran a experiment for a year or so and is gathering data on what works and what doesn't. Also, by opening the place there he developed some new areas for recruiting his workers.

Another issue is what we see in Arlington, where the only places that will qualify for a lease in new commercial grade buildings are very boring national or regional chains, which lessens the quality of the area.

We'll agree to disagree about the CSPI and their meddling in nutrition, I don't think their overall contribution has been great. That being said, I do agree with you it is more a skill being lost (cooking) rather than the "food desert". I have a great story on that from Russia. Or Idiocracy and their love of gatorade as a fertilizer.

At 4:55 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

fwiw, I learned a lot by CSPI through observation of how systems work, and how the org. repositioned, nonprofit marketing and funding, publishing etc. + about nutrition, structurally focused change, so much.

At the same time, things like nutritional labeling requirements only go so far because information only triggers change for a small segment of the population.

But it was a great environment for me. Too bad I left before they got rich. (And it took them years to implement one of my ideas--6 years after I left finally--which generates a few million annually for them.)


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