Photo of Rosslyn from Georgetown by Dinesh Cyanam.
Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:
Filed under The Morning Metropolitan
Tagged as Potomac, The Rent is Too Damn High
I wish the WBJ had provided some more details. But, let me ask this GM: can the residential area of Georgetown secede from M Street?
I wonder if it would be possible to grant concessions to landlords (property tax abatement?) in return for some kind of rent control of local business. Perhaps there could be a ceiling on gross receipts to ensure that it favors small businesses and it would have to be commercial (no professional corps or LLCs). DC has decent rent control laws for residents to ensure long-term residents are priced out (especially seniors and those on limited incomes). What good is it to be able to remain in a neighborhood if the reason for living there disappears?
Jack Evans, if you read this – perhaps explore a way to ensure small local businesses can continue to thrive in DC while not being priced out by rising rents.
I am confused. So, Georgetown is a desired destination for businesses to invest…thus “improving” the look and feel of the town (see the great series of then and now photos) as well as holding up or raising our home values, yet people are upset at that too. The same people who demand upscale boutiques also seem to resent the type of neighborhood that would attract and sustain those stores. Mom and Pop is dead in most settings…it just isn’t possible to effectively compete with high end chains who can create savings based on the scale of their operations that allow them to pay for higher rents. The only constant is change…and apparently the age old axiom of people complaining and whining all the more the older they get. If you want local businesses to succeed, you may want to live somewhere not as nice, not as desirable, more edge neighborhoods and thus not as expensive. You can’t have it both ways…not in a free market. Our society as a whole is homogenizing, welcome to the new world.
Target, if it happens, is not high end, nor are many of the chains that have opened in Georgetown. Most of the high end went to Chevy Chase and beyond. Upper Georgetown is the best example of commercial Georgetown at its best — unique, diverse, proper scale, owners who are generally on the premises, appealing to residents and tourists.
It’s up to the community to decide what it wants commercial Georgetown to embody, and community leaders should be pressed to set parameters and incentives that make the vision come true. Just writing a slogan — come out and play — doesn’t make it happen. And play where, exactly?
Why not, “come out and eat,” or “come out and shop,” and make that happen in an entrepreneurial and creative way; guide Georgetown toward becoming a mecca and model for the 21st Century “mom and pop.” Georgetown Cupcake is a good example; creative, entrepreneurial, unique and sole proprietor, but also a draw beyond Georgetown’s borders. Clyde’s achieved the same success decades ago.
There are two causes at the root of Georgetown’s recent commercial frustration. One, the community has no defined singular leadership. It is fractured among many constituencies, with often conflicting agendas, and when each is pleased with its slice of the pie, over and out. Two, the mall. It messed with the primal balance of the village’s commercial heart. But it has to be dealt with. It’s there – an outsized, awkward rubber duck in a teeny tiny tub.
Look up the hill at Glover Park. Its leaders have a vision for the neighborhood and stay relatively strict in their pursuit of that vision — and the commercial stretch has balance and diversity. It can be done.
Interesting…and I don’t even go to Upper Georgetown to shop because I consider it a bit of a wasteland. But then maybe I don’t live in the rarefied air that some do.
Last I checked it was not the community of Georgetown that decides what Georgetown commercial spaces should embody or be occupied by…I would think you above all would understand that as the community wanted your old business to remain but economic realities and poor management over the years doomed it. Now we have Serendipity 3. That is the reality of free markets…the market sets the rate on a property and the market is not controlled by the community.
I do find it funny that you hold up the “jumped the shark” trendy Georgetown Cupcake (third best cupcakes in Georgetown) as a model. They are moving to NY. Why, because they don’t want to be a “mom and daughter and daughter” type establishment that serves the local…they want to make money while the sun shines because this fad of cupcakes will end. Which I think is fine and more power to them for suckering people into standing in line to buy cupcakes that one could make at home for a fraction of the cost.
I actually don’t see a problem with the recent commercial moves in Georgetown, because ultimately they are business decisions. I know you may not get this, but businesses are supposed to make profits and even maximize them…if a business can’t afford the rent somewhere…then government doesn’t (or shouldn’t) step in and provide welfare to them…they are kicked to the curb. Oh, wait maybe you do understand that. I could complain about how the takeover of the former Bangkok Bistro by Mai Thai has left the menu bland and tasteless and demand my elected leaders force them to change it back…but instead after giving them a fair shake…I will take my dinning elsewhere. That is how business works…not from some shadow conspiracy (just saw that the other day enjoyed the old Georgetown shots) telling people what business can and can’t come into the area.
I will give you that the old mall space is a bit of an albatross…which is why an entity that needs large amounts of square footage like a Target makes sense there and would even be below grade thus not so damaging to the sensibilities of those who would be shocked at the riff raff getting in. Of course, my theory over a decade ago was to turn it into a nightlife center…put in club, draw in foot traffic but we all know how the people around here would feel about that.
Glover Park is not a very good comparison. First the scale is much different…and oddly I don’t think a lot of folks around Georgetown would want to see Good Guys move down here…even if more than a few students have put themselves through college working there. Ultimately what you are arguing for is a controlled vision that matches what you think it should be. Others of us think that your vision is terrible and don’t want your controlled state. As I always say to the “let them eat cake” crowd, if you want control move into a HOA in the burbs. Personally, the Georgetown of today is far better in many aspects than the Georgetown of 20 years ago…though it still would be nice to have a Target.
RNM the problem with your overly simplistic Libertarian view is that a neighborhood like Georgetown has been maintained through a series of highly restrictive and protectionist regulations and efforts dating all the way back to the 30s. It’s far from the free market. You may object to this or that regulation or subsidy or whatever, but you’re delusional to think the in the absence of this or that regulation that we will have maintained a “free market” and that all that results is a pure calculation of the relative merits or one business over another. It’s one thing to argue against one regulatory effort on the merits, it’s another to suggest the effort is an abrogation of the free market. You mention HOAs; the thing is, for better or worse Georgetown has been run like one long before either of us got here.
There are market forces at play, certainly, but to suggest that those market forces aren’t at work within a tightly controlled regulatory environment is preposterous. In my opinion, the problem isn’t that the regulatory structures exist, it’s that they exist without cohesive overarching principles.
Either way, if anything it’s the resignation to market forces that produces soulless pits like Potomac Yards (which, not coincidentally, you’ve expressed an affection for). Georgetown’s history has been marked with anything but such resignation.
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