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, October 31, 2014

6Ps, Walmart in DC and "I hate to say I told you so"

DCist has a piece, Business Owners Near Georgia Avenue Walmart Seek City's Help," in response to a report by Ward 4 Thrives about how businesses in the vicinity of the Walmart on Georgia Avenue NW in Washington, DC are seeking extra-normal assistance from the City Government, because since the Walmart opened 11 months ago, they are experiencing business difficulties.

The 6Ps = prior planning prevents piss poor performance.

FWIW, I co-chaired a committee convened by ANC4B to study the proposal for a Walmart at that site and to provide guidance about the matter which the ANC would consider and submit to relevant DC Government agencies. It was a great committee, and while I wrote the bulk of the report and recommendations, by no means are all the recommendations and analysis mine.

We prepared both a full report and analysis as well as a summary list of the 37(!) recommendations. We did not address "yes or no" on Walmart because it was a legal use for that site.

About 25% of the recommendations specifically discussed the need to provide technical and other assistance to the businesses and buildings near the "Walmart site" to address the likely negative impacts that would ensue, to decrease the likelihood of business failure and building vacancy--8 of the 37 recommendations addressed economic impact mitigation, 1 recommended that Walmart share parking with adjoining businesses, and 2 suggested that the Office of Planning more significantly address economic impacts in the Large Tract Review process going forward.

The Office of Planning ruled that "economic impacts" were not "neighborhood impacts" as defined by the Large Tract Review regulations. Not having the economic means to challenge this determination, which is counter to how most other jurisdictions interpret such regulations and "environmental assessment" processes, the project sailed through.

But then again, at the time, the Office of Planning and DDOT were ordered to "make Walmart happen," not to ensure the best possible results for all impacted parties.

FWIW/2, "I hate to say I told you so" is the title of a song by the Hives. But that report is 3.5 years old, and these negative impacts were predicted. And I wrote a bunch of pieces about the process, learning from it, and the need to change various DC planning review processes, regulations, and practices:

-- Lessons from Walmart's foray into Washington, DC
-- Piling on City Council for Walmart
-- I hope for Aspen Hills' sake that Montgomery County is smart enough to learn from DC's planning errors with regard to Walmart's entry"
-- op-ed piece, Washington Business Journal, "Temper Walmart glee with planning"

The recommendations...

Transportation Demand Management

11. Walmart should agree to explore with the DC Department of Transportation setting up a shared parking situation with the on-site customer parking spaces, perhaps through the creation of a “transportation management district” to manage this and other transportation demand management initiatives in both this and the Walter Reed commercial nodes on Georgia Avenue.

Neighborhood economic impact recommendations

27. Based on this preliminary review, it is recommended that the Office of Planning conduct a more detailed and complete analysis of the neighborhood economic impact of a Walmart
general merchandise/supermarket combination store in Ward 4, as a legitimate (but novel) interpretation of the provisions of the Large Tract Review process concerning minimization of adverse neighborhood impacts. If potentially negative impacts cannot be expected to be reasonably mitigated, denial of the application in whole or in part could potentially be justified.

28. A mitigation program, funded by the developer and/or Walmart, should be created for Ward 4 businesses (a separate program could be created for Ward 1, but such a recommendation is not within the purview of this committee) to limit potentially negative impacts on extant retailers, as well as to leverage to as great an extent as possible, in a proactive manner through various commercial district revitalization activities, the entry of Walmart into the Georgia Avenue corridor generally, and into the Missouri Avenue-Piney Branch commercial district node specifically.

29. Funds should be made available for technical assistance to merchants, façade improvement projects, marketing, and other initiatives, in advance of (and after) the opening of the Walmart store, to better prepare retailers to face and address competition. (The Main Street commercial district revitalization program, such as the program in Old Takoma, serving both DC and Maryland, is one such model for this type of program.)

30. A revitalization coordinator should be hired, paid for by Walmart/Foulger-Pratt, for at least a three year period, to develop and manage this program, in association with merchants, residents, and other stakeholders. This person could be assigned to work as part of the Deputy Mayor’s Office for Planning and Economic Development, the Office of Planning, or in the Ward 4 Councilmember’s Office.

31. A master database of all commercial properties should be created, with data on lease terms, property size, building condition, revenue potential/s.f. and other items, for use in the execution of this program.

32. A recruitment and development program to attract new businesses and new development should be executed simultaneously with development and implementation of the technical
assistance and support program for extant businesses and properties.

33. Note that while the Washington DC Economic Partnership is tasked with the development of marketing materials for various DC commercial districts, they have not created promotional materials for the Missouri Avenue to Piney Branch Road commercial node on Georgia Avenue. They should be directed to create such materials forthwith. ** {Actually this has since been rectified.]

Recommendations for rectifying gaps in Planning and Zoning regulations

34. The Large Tract Review process does not adequately address potentially negative economic impact of projects generally. The LTR process is also deficiently because it is essentially advisory, without the ability to directly mandate action or deny approval. These defects in the Large Tract Review process should be addressed and the process made more robust.

35. DC should create a new mandatory review process (“Large Retail Impact Review”) to address the various economic and other impacts of large scale retail projects in excess of 75,000 square feet.

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At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry to say but if we get Bowser in we can expect more of the same VG type kowtowing to outside big business interests like Sprawl Mart - all at the expense of small time business owners while simultaneously pocketing $$$$ mulla - although no one can say for certain this is the case- it has been normal thru human history for politicos to be on the take WRT to big business just about everywhere on the globe and this place is no exception - bu tmaybe theyre just slicker..


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