"Minature Target coming to Northwest DC" as an indicator of a massive failure in urban planning
The Washington Business Journal ("Another miniature Target coming to Northwest DC") and other media have reported on plans for Target to open one of their new mini stores ("Target opens new small-format stores," Business Insider) in a building on the DC-Montgomery County line, at Georgia and Eastern Avenues NW.
This is the result of the development firm dropping earlier plans to consolidate the property and build a mixed use building with 199 apartments and a Harris-Teeter Supermarket on the ground floor.
Many residents were up in arms believing that having a supermarket there would create lots of traffic on Kalmia Road, and there was organized opposition.
While the project was approved by the Zoning Commission, energized residents initiated a lawsuit, leading to delays, and while a ruling hasn't come down, the development company junked the project.
From the standpoint of a city with a housing inventory problem, losing out on 200 apartments which likely would have accommodated about 400 people, in striking distance to Metrorail, and paying income and sales taxes to DC, along with income and property taxes from the building, would have been a big win.
We've been discussing this project on our neighborhood e-list, because that site is part of the greater neighborhood.
My line about this is that people don't do "scenario planning" when they think about these kinds of projects and they especially can't imagine there being "worse outcomes" compared to what they oppose.
This came up vis a vis Walmart when we were doing the big ANC4B committee and I co-chaired a sub-committee and produced a report (ANC4B Large Tract Review Report on Walmart, 5/2011) on "what to do," when there was an approved plan for multiunit apartments and ground floor retail already in place--which immediate/area/SMD residents opposed. Those residents couldn't imagine there being a worse outcome. There was.
1. Walmart was a worse outcome than apartments + ground floor retail.
(I go into the two DC Walmarts nearby very rarely, but when I do I find frequent out of stocks, a big mess, and lack of coverage in categories of products I want to buy--on that end, the Target in Columbia Heights is a better match.)
2. The Takoma Co-op separate from an integrated development at Takoma Junction is a worse outcome than the two sites being integrated including the creation of an awesome co-op instead of the ho hum one we have ("The lost opportunity of the Takoma Food Co-op as a transformational driver for the Takoma Junction district")
3. While apartments will be a better outcome than rowhouses at Takoma Metro, likely the apartment complex we will get will be suboptimal for a bunch of reasons. Although that won't only be the fault of residents, but the lack of integrated planning and approval processes, and lack of vision on the part of the developer and WMATA and the city ("Takoma's Brookland moment: some opposition to apartment development on the WMATA station site," 2013; "The Takoma Metro Development Proposal and its illustration of gaps in planning and participation processes," 2014; "Design of the apartment building at the Takoma Metro: offering better design cues," 2014).
4. and a small Target with a smattering of merchandise and no additional apartments will be a suboptimal outcome for us vis a vis instead of getting a Harris Teeter supermarket.
Plus, but I doubt it was on the agenda with H-T or Douglas Development, if the community would have had its s* together maybe they could have convinced Harris-Teeter to go with the Marketplace format ("Kroger opens Marketplace with general merchandise in Lewisville," Dallas Morning News); "Kroger targets big box market with big Marketplace<" Houston Chronicle), which adds general merchandise (not unlike Walmart) to the grocery offering.
H-T doesn't employ this format yet, but other Kroger divisions do. From the DMN article:
These larger stores, about 123,000 square feet, are Kroger’s answer to one-stop shopping. In addition to having an expanded grocery side, these stores stock general merchandise, including housewares, baby gear, furniture, toys, and a fine jewelry store. Fred Meyer Jewelers, which is also owned by Kroger, operates a store within a store in most Marketplace locations.Although my sense is now that H-T will end up in the Walter Reed development, and maybe if the developers are smart, they'll entice them to do the Marketplace format. Although/2, maybe H-T won't want to do it there because there are already two (!!) Walmart city supercenters within a couple miles of the site.
Most developers look for the easiest path. One of the comments criticized Douglas Development, but developers "are like water" always searching for easiest, quickest path.
Knowing that is the case, residents ought to be more focused on achieving awesome outcomes, rather than suboptimal ones as the results last for 1-3 generations (20 to 90+ years), which is a long, long time.
As the old saying goes, "be careful what you wish for, because you might get it."
Although I have to say, I didn't like the proposed design of the building. I thought they should have used the art deco architectural style, as a reference to the architecture in nearby Silver Spring as well as the various examples of apartment buildings, albeit pretty simple, on Upper Georgia Avenue in DC.
That was an example of a different planning failure concerning urban design requirements for the city's major avenues and entrypoints ("An argument for the aesthetic quality of the ensemble: special design guidelines are required for DC's avenues," 2015).
This is relevant to developers vis a vis residents too. Most developers don't see themselves as building quality of life. Constructing buildings sure. Some will go to extraordinary lengths to do great work, "to build monuments," even for a neighborhood. But most don't.
So planning processes need to acknowledge and as discussed in the piece about Mount Pleasant Street ("Strong real estate markets need more public protections, not fewer: entry of CVS into DC's Mount Pleasant neighborhood"), I believe that most communities need extra provisions in their planning processes as a matter of course, to aim to produce better outcomes.
(More on this and Mount Pleasant Street in a follow up post.)