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, March 03, 2023

Responding to retail decay in Friendship Heights (DC/Montgomery County, Maryland)

 I've written about the decline of this once thriving commercial district:

-- "Friendship Heights and the production of retail decay," 2020

The retail killer Ashkenasy (they wrecked a couple locations in Baltimore including Harborplace, and haven't been great managers of Union Station's retail) owned Mazza Gallerie for awhile, it went into foreclosure.  Once home to a Neiman-Marcus department store, now closed, it's going to be torn down and redeveloped into retail and housing.

WTOP reports that DC and MoCo are working to create a business improvement district to help improve the area ("Friendship Heights BID? DC and Montgomery Co. are working on it").

In the beginning of my Main Street days (2002) districts like Dupont Circle pushed for being included. 

I scoffed, saying that they had plenty of resources, and neighborhood commercial districts didn't.  The reality is that then successful districts like Friendship Heights and Georgetown still faced voracious competition, but from the suburbs ("Turnabout is fair play: why Topher Matthews/GGW is wrong about TIF incentives for a department store in Georgetown," 2012).

So I was missing the point. The lesson from Main Street and BIDs and the original Downtown management program in Corning New York in the early 1960s, is that _all_ such districts need ongoing management so they can be their best, compete with other districts, recruit, stay on top of possible negative changes, etc.

So now that FH is super duper languishing they are considering creating a business improvement district. Obviously this should have been done years ago, especially as department stores began to falter and DC invested in other areas, as did Montgomery County.

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At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Charlie said...

What are you thoughts on BID working to manage residental/nightlife interfaces? I guess Adams morgan is the best example of that, and only marginally successful. Pushed some low rent customers out, but not like AM night life ever really came back.

At 9:29 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I think it should be done. But I don't think they can be very good at it, because they have a hard time being fair and balanced versus being biased in favor of the members of the BID. This has been a problem with Adams Morgan BID for a long time.

Plus they have a lot of wacked people there, making it hard to work together, build consensus etc. I wrote a couple pieces about the BID renewal process being a mess.

But just like there should be commercial district management organizations "everywhere", the nightlife destinations need to manage their day part in a proactive way, and I don't know if DC's little BIDs have the innovative capacity. Good question for Natalie Avery. DK if she still is director if the DC BID group. I guess not.

Obviously DC's night mayor hasn't done much.

Plus I don't understand that they haven't been doing this. I appended the WTOP story to the entry on the U Street task force.

The other problem is that DC ha s too many nightlife destinations relative to demand.

I'm hardly an aficionado but Adams Morgan, Georgetown, Downtown (probably not much of a thing anymore), H Street, Wharf, Navy Yard, U Street, Dupont?, is a lot. The kinds of people that go to city districts are "different" probably than Bethesda, but you also have Clarendon, Alexandria, National Harbor.

The thing I learned from Downtown (and SE before it was Navy Yard) when it was a scene was that 1. Low rents helped. But 2. Places had a 5-8 year life of hipness. They had to be constantly refreshed. Polyesters, Tracks. At 21st and M there was a huge underground place. Club Zei in an alley block. Sportsbars off 29th Street NW.

Kilamanjaro when I first came to DC. Later Rixannes both in Adams Morgan.

Buffalo Billiards, 1223, the various Hilton Brothers places

Tough business.

At 9:31 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Hechts warehouse district was hip for a bit. It crashed didn't it, with covid? The Union Market district has had trouble too maintaining hipness?

At 9:33 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...


At 11:00 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

19th Street not 29th Street


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