A look at what's going on in Trinidad, on H Street, and in the larger area north of Capitol Hill.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Post Article on Wholesale Food District

You'll want to read this Post piece on one man's plan to redevelop the wholesale food district just north of Florida Ave (right across from the NY Metro station). I've mentioned this plan before, and frankly, it really concerns me. This guy wants to totally change the character of the area. He hopes to put in an ampitheater & bowling alley (can you say Gallery Place-"Chinatown"?). I think the market is a great neighborhood asset that needs to be redeveloped sensitively. When I look at the Florida Market area, I see the potential for something far greater than Eastern Market (the Florida Ave Market has a lot more area). We're talking about an actual market district that has managed to survive while so many of DC's markets were bulldozed to make way for the future. Lots of cities have wisely embraced & capitalized on districts much like this one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw his presentation at a ANC meeting once. He seemed more genuine than a lot of developers so my personal view is that there is probably room for negotiation with his proposal. It seems reasonable to redevelop some of the area while maintaining some of what makes the market great.

I personally think that maintaining components of the market (like Eastern Market) would only make the development more attractive to everyone.

Mar 2, 2006, 11:01:00 AM

Blogger inked said...

I'm not saying he's a bad guy. I'm just skeptical of his plan. I like to point to Philadelphia's italian Market when I think about a possible desirable future for the area.
I think that what has happened in Chinatown (and it's true that rising realestate prices & immigrant settlement patterns probably played large roles in that case) shows how easy it can be for an area to lose its uniqueness.

Mar 2, 2006, 11:44:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Totally agree. I agree with you too in that a bowling alley and some of the other components of the plan make it smell funny-- like the changes that came to Chinatown. I will say that at the ANC meeting ANC Comissioner Phillips was really interested in making it have amenitites for the kids of the surrounding communities. IE, he was very vocal that it doesn't just become housing for rich "new" folks. The ampitheater and bowling alley may continue to stay in the plan in an attempt to placate ANC demands. Someone should reach out to the developer and help him understand the value the community puts on the services provided by the existing wholesale food market.

Mar 2, 2006, 12:59:00 PM

Anonymous Mose said...

I sense some dissatisfaction with the current Chinatown, but didn't the Chinatown of old suffer from high crime rates and serious urban decay? Preservation shouldn't be done simply for preservation's sake - preservation should take place where the value of economic development is heavily outweighed by historical or community considerations. Even after development, there are still many Chinese restaurants in Chinatown. I realize that chain stores or restaurants that have sprouted up lack character, but there are also many high quality local businesses there now as well. In addition, all those businesses have created jobs for DC residents, and the new condos and business revenue contribute to the bottom line of DC through taxes, a substantial portion of which is channeled into programs which provide services to those less fortunate. On a personal note, my wife and I had burgers at Clyde's the other night, and they are quite tasty. It's nice to finally have places like that to go to every now and then on the East side of the District.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that, although it is proper to view development through a critical eye, it shouldn't be discounted out of hand, particularly where what is there now could stand for some improvement (there are quite a few abandoned buildings in the market area).

Mar 2, 2006, 2:11:00 PM

Blogger inked said...

Improve it, but don't erase it. The crime that occurs over there mostly occurs at night (when everything is closed). I'm arguing that sensitively redeveloping this area will make it more valuable. A generic district like DC's Chinatown can exist any place. A truly unique market area like this could not only be cleaned to welcome more local residents, it could also become a a place that visitors to the city might enjoy checking out (much as people due with the Italian Market in Philadelphia).

Mar 2, 2006, 2:28:00 PM

Blogger Richard Layman said...

Mose, you need to learn some more radical analyses of land use and development. Chinatown didn't decay without help.

That decay was "produced," in very much the same way that Jane Jacobs describes how communities are abandoned and disinvested in once big projects like freeways get announced. (The same process happened in Ivy City, which was to be levelled for part of I-95 north, which was never built.)

The process of suburban outmigration and urban disinvestment has been chronicled by many.

DC would still be totally f*ed if not for three things: (1) (the women mostly in) the Friends tv show, which featured young hip suburbanites who moved to the city, and maybe Seinfeld, which also treated the city fairly--in either case this led to a marginal increase in demand for living, but only (2) after Marion Barry left the scene, and Mayor Williams entered the stage, which changed the commercial investment climate significantly.

But this wouldn't have mattered if the federal employment engine at the core of the city didn't continue on, providing demand for close-in living, if the close-in living didn't have too many downsides.

Mar 2, 2006, 5:45:00 PM

Blogger Richard Layman said...

Sorry, it is demand for "urban" living that was increased by tv shows like Friends and Seinfeld, or maybe just Jennifer Aniston's hairdo...

Mar 2, 2006, 5:46:00 PM

Anonymous Bill Dunn said...

Richard, I'm not sure acquainting oneself with Jane Jacobs is necessary to recognize that in the 1980's DC's Chinatown (or should I say China block), was chock full of porno shops and wig outlets. The number of Asian restraunts actually doesn't seem too have dropped as much as I would have expected. While most of us could deal without the Fudruckers or Hooters, I think Mose's point was that often those screaming foul at commercial deveopement often romanticize what was existed previously.

Mar 2, 2006, 7:03:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like Richard is against any change that is not his own idea. Read my blog about it......

Mar 2, 2006, 11:51:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't quite get why we should view this as a bad thing. There will be development on that part of Florida Avenue to complement what is happening on the South side of the street. I doubt that a lone Subway and a gas station are the most profitable use of that space for long. That doesn't mean that the back of the lot can't or shouldn't remain a food market.

And I doubt we will see anything change for 5-10 eyars anyways.

Mar 4, 2006, 9:19:00 AM

Blogger inked said...

I welcome development over there. I just think the market area has more potential than this plan (as currently articulated) will appreciate. I don't think anyone is going to argue that the market in its current state is exactly using the land the best way that it could. I would just like to see smart development over there that really uses the market as the key to the area & builds on that. Would you as a visitor to a city, rather visit a generic area (as I think think Gallery Place is becoming), or someplace truly unique that has a real soul & history? Building on the market idea makes more sense than than adding things like a bowling alley, or an auditorium. Other ideas that have been put forth for the area (ideas that I like) involve cleaning up the area a bit, encouraging the businesses to get retail licenses (something many don't currently have since so many are wholesale only), encouraging some cafes & coffeehouses, possibly putting in a small culinary school & others things of this nature. These ideas embrase the spirit of the market & move in that direction, as opposed to just throwing in disparate entertainment attractions that really have nothing to do with the market. I agree that any development over there will probably take a while. But let's be cautious here & not just go with the first half-baked idea that comes along simply because the guy is willing to build in the area.

Mar 4, 2006, 9:45:00 AM


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