Scheele’s Market Building for Sale

Scheele's Market Building For Sale

Carol Joynt alerts GM to the unfortunate news that the building that houses Scheele’s Market at 29th and Dumbarton is up for sale. A sale could lead to the closing of the beloved corner store. Find out more after the jump:

Scheele’s Market has been owned by the Lee family for 20 years. It represents one of the stars of Georgetown’s neighborhood market constellation. But unlike some of their peers (like GM’s corner shop, Sarah’s) the Lee’s do not own the building that contains their shop.

While it is possible that the purchaser of the building would continue to rent out the shop’s space, the real estate listing doesn’t give a lot of hope for that. It reads:

Georgetown landmark property first time on the market in 40 years. Great location and ample square footage.Currently mixed use. Scheele’s Market and two-level apartment. Market is grandfathered zoned special use. A great opportunity to restore this historic building back into an elegant Georgetown residence. Lovely yard with deck and two car parking!

It’s certainly troubling for the Lees and their customers that the listing is emphasizing the possibility that a new owner could transform the property from valuable corner store to just another rowhouse.

GM hopes the fears are unjustified and that a new owner sees more money as a landlord. But as a larger question, it seems that Georgetown has not done what is necessary to preserve our corner stores. One of the best things about our neighborhood is the mix of residential and commercial uses. Unlike many other neighborhoods, Georgetown is a place where many people are no more than a few walkable blocks from milk, bread, and a bottle of wine. But this has been under constant attack from residents and organizations that seek to separate out home from store. The listing itself demonstrates this problem. The only reason Scheele’s even exists is because of zoning grandfathering. No one could open a new Scheele’s.

Throughout Georgetown you can see buildings that clearly once housed retail establishments. But even if you wanted to reestablish a business in those buildings, you would have to run a gauntlet of angry neighbors and an unfriendly ANC and BZA that kowtows to angry neighbors. Certainly nobody wants to end up like the residents of Potomac St. who saw a quiet private home get turned into a loud late night pizza restaurant, but there has to be a middleground that would facilitate more desirable mixed uses. The uniqueness of Georgetown depends on it.


Filed under Retail, Rumors

9 responses to “Scheele’s Market Building for Sale

  1. Pingback: Facing Closure - Nathans Seeks Last Minute Reprieve «

  2. SG

    This is a problem all across DC that must be addressed. NIMBYs absolutely hate neighborhood businesses, even though they’ve been there for 100+ years. Capitol Hill has successfully waged war against them, taking out a lot of what makes it a great neighborhood. Go to Chicago or New Orleans and see how valuable well-integrated neighborhood businesses are to a neighborhood.

  3. While you can’t force a new owner to keep the space as retail I guess, you could have a more fine grained zoning review process than we currently have.

    E.g., Laguna Beach, CA has a category of neighborhood service retail use, to help limit touristification of retail and a run up in rents. Of course, they have plenty of retail zoned without this restriction.

    What we don’t have wrt the conversion of retail to other uses is a hearing/special exception process, which would make it harder to change the use. Which if the use were harder to change, it would limit somewhat the speculative increase in the price of the property.

    (Similarly, I think it’s a problem that schools and churches can locate in industrial areas. For other reasons, such users may be willing to outbid industrial users for the space, but since there is only so much industrially zoned land in the city, and a need for industry-repair-distribution uses despite the value of the land for non-industrial users, limits to use should be employed with this category in a comparable fashion.)

  4. GM

    Inverse to the question of making it tougher to convert retail into residential space is the question of converting residential space into retail. The point I was trying to make was that with so much of the formerly retail space in Georgetown converted to residential zoning, the option of the Lees to simply set up shop in a different building is nonexistant.

    For example, I’m fairly sure this building was once retail:

    It is only one block east of Scheele’s (and currently listed for rent or purchase). I believe we’d be better off if the Lees (or anyone else) could set up shop there. However, I’m certain they wouldn’t be allowed. So I agree that making it tougher to convert retail to residential could be helpful, we should push to make the reverse possible too.

  5. J. MacLeod Carter

    I do believe the green residence on the corner of Dumbarton and 28th was, at one time, a mortuary – so I’ve been told…

  6. These questions are becoming more & more important as the drive to reinvest in close in cities and towns accelerates. Suburbanization of city neighborhoods is often the result of NIMBYism and some of the bad repercussions of historic districts that step outside of their bounds and try to make whole areas car dependent or residential. capitol Hill Navy Yard has most certainly suffered from this and there definitely needs to be a process of some kind to allow former stores or businesses to reconvert to commercial- even if it is on the first floor of a structure. there is a very bad tendency to make iron clad some of the worst changes that were set into place in the 1950- 80’s era- and more flexibility must come back into the regulations. making neighborhoods car dependent, and forcing small businesses out of the city[ in many close in suburbs they are most certainly thriving and encouraged] and the loss of tax dollars is a really important and much overlooked issue in DC proper.

  7. SG’s comments are exactly true. It is very sad- if you look at the real “historic” make up of these neighborhoods, every block had multiple businesses. Now days, that all important bugaboo of city living- free parking takes upper most in the eyes of far too many people. They willing sacrifice a healthy urban fabric for their free parking and anything that in any way threatens free parking- like a mom &pop store- is seen as obsolete and must go away. We will all pay for this when the energy gets even more expensive and the necessity for a walkable community that is not car dependent becomes more and more essential for sustainability.

  8. Pingback: Residents Show Support for Scheele’s «

  9. Pingback: 2009 – A Georgetown Year in Review «

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