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.

Friday, September 06, 2013

For what it's worth: Walmart shopping center on New York Avenue is cancelled

The Post reports, in "Deal for New York Avenue Wal-Mart store falls apart as Mayor Gray weighs ‘living wage’ bill," on the break up of the agreement to build a shopping center at West Virginia Avenue and New York Avenue NE, which was supposed to be anchored by a Walmart and Lowe's--they have since committed to a different shopping center down the street, next to Costco.

There is speculation that part of the reason that the project fell through was due to the proposed Living Wage bill for big box stores including Walmart, which would mandate $12.50 per hour minimum in wages and benefits.

On the other hand, the same developer proposed a project in the Remington neighborhood of Baltimore (although the company successfully built what is now called Rhode Island Place adjacent to the Rhode Island Metro station, featuring a Giant Supermarket and a Home Depot around 2000), and this project is sputtering too ("Revised plans for Walmart-anchored 25th Street Station project could send it back to council," Baltimore Business Journal--there too, Lowe's backed out of the project), even without the specter of a living wage bill.

Part of the reason that Walmart was able to scoop up a bunch of sites in DC in 2011 was that at the time, DC was still coming off the real estate recession touched off by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, which financed a great number of urban real estate projects. 

So a lot of big projects, including a big mixed use development program planned for the "Arboretum Place" site ground to a halt (see "Abdo's Arbor Place NE" from DC Metrocentric). 

In the meantime, property owners looking for the quick buck were happy to take calls from companies representing retailers like Walmart. 

Sadly, that's why we'll have a single use Walmart at a Georgia Avenue node (at Missouri Avenue) in Upper Northwest DC, a node that otherwise has a great deal of potential to trigger revitalization, but won't most likely, because of the single use nature of this project, which will have limited spillover benefits for other businesses and sites along the corridor.

Now that the commercial real estate market in the city is picking up even in more marginal locations, property owners can be more choosy.


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