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I of course agree with Alex B. that only the two JBG WM projects can be termed urban. My first response when I read the "analysis" of the Georgia Ave. store clearly violated the comment policy. It wasn't printable.

Two things make the Georgia Ave. store "urban". It has a zero setback from the lot line, and underground structured parking. But it's basically a suburban store. It doesn't nothing to extend urbanism either. (And big boxes can have structured parking in the suburbs too, depending on land value. E.g. the Target on Rockville Pike.)

It's a massive failure and waste of the space. Especially in terms of the loss of the opportunity to do vertical mixed use. And Foulger-Pratt's total unwillingness to consider mixed use, and to not to design the capacity to add vertical density later makes the project a total waste, and you should have said so, rather than saying it's all the neighborhood can attract, given its current revitalization status.

2. What would have been an important contribution in this piece would have been some speculation about why the stores differ in substantive ways. It's not just the locations. For the most part, I'd say it's the developers. JBG is comfortable with vertical mixed use. The others are not, including Foulger-Pratt, which does do mixed use, but horizontal mixed use only (separated uses, but next to each other).

3. So the major lesson here is having the right regulatory oversight capacity in place to deal when companies like WM enter the market. You didn't mention that either.

The point someone made about retail trade areas is true. The only way that 6 stores can survive is if they get a lot of customers from outside the city. WM must think that they are so special a store that suburbanites will come into the city and shop at, something that suburbanites normally don't do. I think it's a lot less likely than WM believes.

The other thing is WM's general philosophy is to capture as much as 100% of the consumer's retail spending. So they must expect to take a significant amount of supermarket spending away from Giant and Safeway.

Of course, with Walmart's "new jobs," in that scenario come "destroyed jobs" and vacant buildings as vanquished businesses go dark.

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One other thing that I am pissed at you/GGW about is the initial coverage on WM, where you stated that the stores will be urban, and how most of the national "smart growth" blogosphere picked up and repeated the assertions verbatim, with no add'l reporting or analysis. So 2 out of the 6 will be urban (you say 3). And that's only because those 2 stores involve JBG.

It happens recently that I talked with an architect working on one of the WM stores and I commented that it must be nice dealing with JBG wrt making the WM store "urban." He said it was not smooth sailing, that both JBG and WM have to be pushed in many respects in order to get to the right thing. ANd that's with a company that is committed to vertical mixed use.

With the other developers, they just don't give a f*** and not having the right provisions in place for big box review makes it impossible to force significant changes.

Having the right ordinance/regulations in place would be good too to provide countervailing power vis-a-vis elected officials, who made it clear to the Office of Planning that the WM stores were supposed to sail through approvals to the extent possible. (This comes out in "on background" conversation with various people in the office. Although I made a surmise about this in the ANC4B report on the subject last May.)

Again, by not making this point, your article misses a huge opportunity to make a contribution to improving the state of planning practice in DC, rather than just commenting on a little piece of it.

I wish GGW would set a higher bar for the purpose of such articles. This is a real disappointment.

by Richard Layman on Apr 26, 2012 8:54 pm • linkreport

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