Greater Greater Washington

Walmart's 6 DC stores: Some will be urban, some won't

When Walmart announced it would open 6 stores in DC, many wondered whether the stores would use urban or suburban layouts. With the plans for all the stores finally available, now we know.

3 of the 6 stores will be unquestionably urban. 1 will be a hybrid with some urban characteristics. 2 will be almost completely suburban.

Gonzaga: The closest store to downtown is suitably the most urban. With apartments above and smaller-format retailers lining the street, Walmart's H Street location is a model of what urban big boxes should be.

Fort Totten: Almost as good as the Gonzaga design, this store is inferior only because it's in a much more isolated location, and because the building materials appear to be somewhat cheaper. But still, the design is unquestionably strong.

Georgia Avenue: Although this design lacks the mixed-use amenities of the previous two, it's still primarily urban, with greater emphasis on pedestrian access than vehicular. It greets the street and parking is provided underground. It's a reasonable choice for a neighborhood that has not seen much investment in recent years.

Skyland Town Center: Resembling something one might expect to see in Gaithersburg, this location is a bit like a shopping mall; it's internally walkable, but poorly connected to any surrounding neighborhoods.

Capitol Gateway: The farthest out proposal from downtown is clearly primarily suburban. It's a strip mall. But it does take a few tentative steps towards walkability, with both street-facing and parking lot-facing entrances.

New York Avenue: The intersection of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road is probably DC's most car-oriented corner. And so it was predictable that Walmart would choose it for a store, and propose a totally suburban design.

The store faces away from the biggest street and fronts onto a big open-air parking lot. The only indication that this location is in a city instead of an exurb is that the Walmart will be stacked on top of another big box store (probably a Home Depot).

Is DC a testing ground?

Each of the 6 stores has such unique characteristics that one wonders if Walmart is using DC as an experiment to see which types of layouts work in the urban environment. By comparing the sales at the more urban stores to the more suburban ones, Walmart will gain many valuable insights.

Inevitably, Walmart will probably want to establish stores in other central cities around the country. The DC example will very likely influence the design of those future stores.

All images in this post are from Walmart.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for the Arlington County Department of Transportation. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives a car-free lifestyle in Northwest Washington. His posts are his own opinions and do not represent the views of his employer in any way. He runs the blog BeyondDC and also contributes to the Washington Post Local Opinions blog. 

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Glad DC is finally joining the real world.

by Jim on Apr 26, 2012 1:27 pm • linkreport

And none of them will be any good for DC in the long term.

by Ron on Apr 26, 2012 1:35 pm • linkreport

I can only hope that the suburban Walmart at the intersection of Bladensburg and NY will transform the current traffic laden hellscape into a pleasant, yet still car centric, suburban style shopping area.

by Sunny Florida Avenue on Apr 26, 2012 1:37 pm • linkreport

Ron - more jobs, low cost products for consumers and increased economic activity will be horrible for the dilapidated cesspool that is DC, good call.

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by Alan on Apr 26, 2012 1:58 pm • linkreport

This is a very helpful comparison. It sure is a lot easier than trying to dig up the posts on each store. I'd also never seen renderings for the last three. Thanks, Dan!

by Phil LaCombe on Apr 26, 2012 2:06 pm • linkreport

Yes Dan, great job!

Is there a reason why the Skyland center is not as walkable? W/the exception of a few stores...it's largely residential...like very residential. Most of the shoppers will likely be from the immediate area...like me!

by HogWash on Apr 26, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

Can the DC market really sustain 6 Walmarts? DC was doing great with 0 and I'm sure a single Walmart would be a boon to the residents, but 6?

The beauty of mix-use construction is that if Walmart fails, someone else can buy the space.

by cmc on Apr 26, 2012 2:27 pm • linkreport

That second image of Skyland looks exactly like the front of Springfield Elementary School on The Simpsons.

by Miles Grant on Apr 26, 2012 2:30 pm • linkreport

Folks already pointed out that the Capitol View one looks like a school, too.

Maybe the plan is that if Walmart fails, DC can just use the buildings for schools one day?

by David Alpert on Apr 26, 2012 2:39 pm • linkreport

Forget "One City", the official DC government slogan should be "Eh, You win some, you lose some."

by Scoot on Apr 26, 2012 2:48 pm • linkreport

@HogWash

Most of the shoppers will likely be from the immediate area...like me!

No, they won't. A store that large won't survive on just a local trade area, no matter how walkable or affluent it is. WalMart plans on drawing customers in from a much larger area for each of these stores. Trust me.

I would disagree with Dan's characteristics of the 6 stores. He says 3 are urban. Only two meet that qualification in my eye, the two that are mixed use (Fort Totten and Gonzaga).

Three are single-use with structured parking (Georgia Ave, Capitol Heights, and Skyland), and one is a strip mall (New York Ave). The Capitol Heights location is also a strip mall, but appears to at least have one level of underground parking.

by Alex B. on Apr 26, 2012 2:53 pm • linkreport

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by Adam L on Apr 26, 2012 3:06 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Sally on Apr 26, 2012 3:15 pm • linkreport

"He says 3 are urban. Only two meet that qualification in my eye, the two that are mixed use (Fort Totten and Gonzaga)."

I grew up in NYC, in brooklyn. Lots of stores that faced the street (and had ZERO off street parking - granted they were much smaller than this) were single use, single story.

Are we defining urban to mean multiuse? A FAR in excess of 1.0? Or is because of the size of the stores, and the provision of offstreet parking that you consider them suburban?

by ExNyer on Apr 26, 2012 3:17 pm • linkreport

@Alex, I didn't suggest "immediate area" to mean that across the street..rather..anacostia, cong heights, hillcrest, temple hills, fort dupont, douglas etc.

My point is that there won't be much WOTR traffic.

by HogWash on Apr 26, 2012 3:33 pm • linkreport

@ExNyer

I define 'urban' here solely in terms of WalMart.

Small, one-story stores with no parking just isn't going to happen for Walmart, no matter how nice it would be. I assume parking will be provided.

Urban need not be multi-use, either, if it is denser (see DC USA's denser retail treatments of a similar big box retailers like Target and Best Buy).

So, that leaves us with:

1. Density
1a. Mixed use
2. Structured parking
3. Design

Only the Fort Totten and Gonzaga locations meet all three requirements, broadly speaking.

by Alex B. on Apr 26, 2012 3:36 pm • linkreport

I'm surprised you refer to Skyland as "something you'd see in Gaithersburg," especially when the example you refer to is Washingtonian Center. Maybe WC is a shopping mall, but it is mixed-use, walkable and connects to other mixed-use, walkable developments.

We can only say so much about the Skyland site plan because it's not very detailed, but it looks like the buildings come up close to each of the surrounding streets, so there could be retail frontage on Good Hope Road and internally as well. It's a very "urban" solution, and more so than the store on Georgia Avenue, which is arguably in a denser area and one that's seen far more investment than the area around Skyland.

by dan reed! on Apr 26, 2012 3:41 pm • linkreport

The Walmart at Capitol Gateway is so close to the one on New York Ave & Montana. Can there really be enough walmart shoppers to support both?

by davidj on Apr 26, 2012 4:17 pm • linkreport

Walmarts are the quintessentially American place to shop. I, for one, am glad they exist...they provide one-stop shopping, great discounts, job opportunities, cheap goods (and a lot of them). What's not to like?

As unions, environmentalism, confiscatory taxes, and burdensome regulation killed American manufacturing, Walmart has stepped in to provide much needed jobs to many places across America.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Rick E. on Apr 26, 2012 4:19 pm • linkreport

It's always good to hear from real Americans like Alan and Rick E. who remind the rest of us that we're pinko, commie, liberal (in the pejorative sense), hippy, anti-business, urban elite, nut jobs, when we don't recognize that where Walmart goes, universal prosperity follows.

by thump on Apr 26, 2012 4:45 pm • linkreport

Walmart quintethenthchial amelican way shop

ANy who against walmart, is hateful communist enemies of the people - are indeed fascist insects. Walmart brings the five prosperities, and the four virtues. All proletarians MUST denounce the hipster elite!!! Report them to your local party committee.

by PeoplesRepublicofChinaExportBureau on Apr 26, 2012 4:53 pm • linkreport

@cmc

It doesn't take a large population to sustain a Walmart store. WM basically built their business off of opening stores in small towns in the South, many of which now have full-size supercenter locations.

If they're opening 6 stores in the District, that's over 100k residents for each store. That doesn't even include people who will be coming in from MD/VA to shop at Walmart (the closest one outside DC is in Landover).

There are many towns/trade areas with far smaller populations that easily sustain WM stores. I used to live in a small city in the middle of nowhere (Stillwater, OK) that had 2 Walmart supercenters...even though there were only <50k residents in the city and <80k in the county/µSA.

by scoot on Apr 26, 2012 5:06 pm • linkreport

Wait, they're going to put a Home Depot at the NYA site? Um, I could walk to that location (except for the whole crossing NYA thing) and can practically spit on the RIA Home Depot from my patio. Is that density of HDs really going to work out?

by Ms. D on Apr 26, 2012 5:14 pm • linkreport

Dan, excellent analysis of the sites. I can see how people might think that Wal-Mart is experimenting here. WalMart has a tendency to abandon some stores after as little as six months, I think this over-saturation may be to see which styles (in varying degrees of urban-ness, however you define it) work in different environs.

Additionally, DC is a good place to do that. DC has a diverse array of urban forms... ironically that diversity exists because of how the city is segregated in some ways.

My guess is that the Fort Totten store will close; either the Gateway or the NY Av store will close and the other will exist largely on clientele driving in from Maryland; The Georgia Av store will be repurposed after a little longer, and the Skyland and Gonzaga stores will do the best

by Dave Murphy on Apr 26, 2012 5:19 pm • linkreport

@Rick E. "Walmart has stepped in to provide much needed jobs to many places across America." Yeah, while they pushed suppliers to send other, often better paying jobs to Mexico or the far East. And they did this while claiming to promote domestic sourcing back in the 80s/90s.

Missing here is the impact on the commercial landscape. The store on Georgia will do nothing to revive what has always been a neighborhood oriented business district and probably will suck out some of the local retail that's there. The NoMa store is very small and seems destined to have as little impact as the Harris Teeter seems to. The NY Ave store will have competition from Target and Costco; it will be interesting to see if any of them serve as magnets for other development.

Given that DC already has a Target and many other big boxes, and that many big boxes are close-by, even transit accessible in close-in 'burbs, I don't know that Wal-Mart

by Rich on Apr 26, 2012 6:32 pm • linkreport

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.

-----------
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

I'm glad none of those hideous big boxes are within walking distance of my humble SW neighborhood.

As for the "urban" edifice with apartments over top, I can't help but ask: Who would want to live over top of a Walmart?

by Brad on Apr 26, 2012 9:24 pm • linkreport

Not bad. Far better than the ugly Walmarts spread throughout suburbia. I hope the two new Walmarts proposed for MoCo in Aspen Hill and Rockville (the only existing one is here in Germantown) will follow the lead of the mixed use examples, especially the one in Rockville.

by King Terrapin on Apr 26, 2012 9:41 pm • linkreport

Rich: "The NoMa store is very small and seems destined to have as little impact as the Harris Teeter seems to."

I'm curious what the heck this means. I work nearby and this story is busy anytime I go in there, day or night.

by spookiness on Apr 26, 2012 9:43 pm • linkreport

Brad,

I would, if the price and location are right. Why would it be different than living over any other commercial space?

by Canaan on Apr 26, 2012 10:35 pm • linkreport

re the NoMA Harris-Teeter... I don't know where Rich lives, and I don't live in the H St. neighborhood anymore, but that store is pretty amazing in terms of how people in the upper H St. neighborhood can walk to it, and how it contributes to the transformation of that neighborhood (along with the subway).

I complain about H-T's generally high prices overall, but I usually shop there once/week--because it's at the foot of the Met. Branch Trail and I can get groceries on my way home. They have great weekly specials (generally supermarket weekly specials are priced comparably to everyday prices at places like Costco, so if you buy those items in quantity, you keep costs down) which I stock up on, along with a couple other things that aren't necessarily on sale.

While the store isn't wildly busy (then again, I don't usually shop there on weekends, when supermarkets do most of their business), it's steady, and as the architect I was talking with commented, it's used as a restaurant by office workers during the day, which gives it an atypical line of business.

In terms of the impact on the neighborhoods--NoMA and H St.--it's not unlike the Safeway at 5th and K NW. A couple years ago, I was riding through there early one morning, going to catch a Chinatown bus, and I was thinking about what the neighborhood north of NY Ave. had been like 5-15 years before, and how it was unimaginable back then that you could walk to a super high quality Safeway (of course, crossing NY Ave. is still a challenge...).

Although like my complaints about this post on Walmart, I have written that it is a shame that the supermarkets aren't truly urban in terms of the experience they provide and the urban design they employ:

http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/stories/2010/08/30/editorial1.html

by Richard Layman on Apr 27, 2012 6:52 am • linkreport

Since when did the store at H St & 1st St NW become known as the "Gonzaga Walmart"? Is it simply the personal usage, based on proximity, by the original author on a different blog? If so I would suggest that GGW not encourage it by repeating it. I am an alumnus and have paid attention to that development specifically and have never heard of any involvement by the school in the project at all. (And believe - that organization knows about real estate deals.) I am supportive of Walmart, but casually associating this project with an unrelated private institution sends the wrong signals. If one is not satisfied with what until now has been the official name - "New Jersey Ave", which I agree lack precision, and if "H St" is too prosaic, then why not associtate the store with the much larger landmark directly across the street - the GPO? Or even with the party actually connected to the developement, JBG?

by Anon202 on Apr 27, 2012 8:35 am • linkreport

@Anon202

That is Walmart's terminology.

The images are from this PDF:
http://walmartwashingtondc.com/wp-content/uploads/dcrenderings.pdf

On Walmart's DC page:
http://www.walmartwashingtondc.com/

by Alex B. on Apr 27, 2012 9:26 am • linkreport

Nice article, but some of these pro Wal-Mart commenters are ridiculous. The lobbying effort on behalf of these stores coming to DC has been so well orchestrated that someone needs to study it. Seriously.

The Washington Post coverage of Wal-Mart coming to DC has been incredibly biased towards Wal-Mart, you have to question what is going on. Everytime there is a blog post about Wal-Mart, this army of enthusiastic Wal-Mart supporters appears.

Come on people, wake up! Do you realize what is happening here? I understand the city is changing, but if you know anything about this town, it is CLEAR that many of these pro Wal-Mart commenters are not actual DC residents but are part of an elaborate and aggresive social media campaign and marketing push.

by natived on Apr 27, 2012 9:56 am • linkreport

@richard layman

Some of us are not that familiar with the RE market on that part of Georgia Avenue. Is high density mixed use a realistic prospect?

@brad

Anyone who can't afford a new luxury unit on top of a Harris Teeter (checked out the rents at Flats 130 lately?) which would be many.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 27, 2012 9:58 am • linkreport

Skyland model is lazy and cheap. If we have to have this monstrosity, at least bury the parking so that huge lot is available for other services/amenities.

Also, we can hope the Mexico scandals slows Wal-Mart's roll -- it's doing that in NYC. Some decent investigative journalism could at least produce a flow chart of the relationship between WM's mondo money, "lobbyists," and our City Council members.

by Ward 8 resident on Apr 27, 2012 11:03 am • linkreport

Apropos of the comment on the Mexico scandal, I've seen Wal-Mart work in an urban environment, as there is a very busy store in one of Mexico City's toniest neighborhoods -- Polanco. However, Wal-Mart is primarily aimed at servicing a car-oriented culture. It's not really meant to be a local supermarket or drugstore, or even a combination of the two. Wal-Mart wants people that buy BIG items, or lots of items. Most people don't go to Wal-Mart and leave with a bag or two that they can carry home or to and through the Metro. Even those who have their own cart aren't really in the target demographic. If you show up at Wal-Mart, you're expected to have an open trunk or back seat.

To expect the company to get too far from the suburban strip mall model is unrealistic. The Whole Foods in North Bethesda offers a slightly different model with underground parking...if you can find a space. That's something Wal-Mart can work with, but it's expensive, Wal-Mart doesn't have the mark-up that Whole Foods does -- indeed, Wal-Mart's raison d'etre is to offer low prices. So, they make their considerable profits on volume of sales. That means lots of readily available parking, and patient customers waiting a long time to checkout (at least, at many stores).

Can Wal-Mart work in an urban environment? The Mexico City stores suggest they can, but the store has to work very differently -- on a smaller scale, and with shoppers that make more frequent trips. That's a tough sell, for the company and for customers. There's a reason why Wal-Mart chooses car-friendly locations.

by Fischy (Ed F.) on Apr 27, 2012 12:05 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerintheCity -- you can look at it in 4 ways.

1. Totally f*ed, nothing "new" since the remodeling of the Safeway.

2. Jesus, the redevelopment at the Petworth Metro 1.8 miles away, plus even the ongoing redevelopment of the little business cluster between Upshur and what Crittenden? as a budding interesting restaurant district means that revitalization energy is hitting the corridor, of course, it's most concentrated at the Metro station.

3. Walter Reed!

4. Fort Totten and all that's going on there.

5. Triangulation of development intensity between Ft. Totten, Petworth, and Walter Reed will lead to an intensification at places where there are build out opportunities.

This is something that I am gonna write about soon in terms of eastern H St./Capitol Hill/Res. 13/Anacostia River, but it's the same kind of thing, you can see all these things happening, and if you have a sense of the continuum, of how various revitalization efforts bubbled up and their various paths in various neighborhoods, you see how this plays or can play out.

The thing is that progress is assisted by "good developers" (like a Donatelli or an Abdo) and is hindered by "bad" developers (like most CDCs or Marvin Jawer or Foulger-Pratt).

by Richard Layman on Apr 27, 2012 12:08 pm • linkreport

@Ward8 -- frankly, there is nothing different, except to a matter of degree and money changing hands, wrt how land development works in the US vs. the WM experience in Mexico. Usually they don't have to pay $, except for some political contributions.

It doesn't even really require high powered journalism, although Lydia DePillis already did a good piece on the Walmart Juggernaut in DC last fall.

But also see the book _Nimby Wars_.
- http://www.forbes.com/forbes/2009/0216/098.html

by Richard Layman on Apr 27, 2012 12:10 pm • linkreport

@AWalker

1. oops one, that's 5 points.

2. oops two, one of the other things that's happening in that area is a little project by a CDC, mostly housing for veterans with some retail, but the CDC did do a nice facade improvement of a little shopping center at Sheridan.

3. oops three, if the Walmart wasn't coming, I imagine that after the success of the redevelopment of the Safeway at Petworth into a mixed use project (building approvals are ongoing) with a new revitalized grocery on the ground floor and housing above, that would have led to Safeway doing the same thing at the Piney Branch location.

4. E.g., about the eastern Capitol Hill energy, a multiunit project is going up across from Eastern High School (if you don't know the city, that's a holy s*** moment and really communicates a lot about the general revitalization energy in "nice" areas).

5. oops four, I didn't make clear what I meant about "triangulation." I meant that the Petworth, Fort Totten, and Walter Reed sites make up points of a triangle and then intensification becomes encouraged within the triangle, even for sites previously seen as marginal (like 16th and East Capitol was, not too long ago).

by Richard Layman on Apr 27, 2012 12:16 pm • linkreport

Ive actually driven by the project undersay across from Eastern High, and yeah, it was a "holy s***: moment. Its Georgia up north of Col Hghts that Im less familiar with, - thanks for that run down.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 27, 2012 12:39 pm • linkreport

I've never been a big fan of WalMart myself. Not for any of the political/social reasons (although I agree some are disturbing), but mostly cause they just don't appeal to me.

I've always been more of a Target person. I think the Target in CoHe has proven that DC can handle these types of stores if planned/modified to fit the urban landscape.

I applaud GGW for this post and the details/images contained within. Well done!

I understand all the negatives re: WalMart in general, but specifically in the case of these 6 locations in DC--what was there before is my question?

Is this a case of WalMart bullying out smaller mom/pop retail stores that were doing well? And taking over.

I don't know for a face, but aren't some of these areas in desperate need for a strong retail anchor store to increase spending and revenue and well, make the neighborhood better?

In particular, that Fort Totten location..I drive by there every week, and have been for 10 years, and there was really NOTHING there before. It was a very depressed area. So I think the plusses will outweigh any minuses in my view there.

Would I prefer more diversity of businesses? Yes. Would I rather it be some other company with maybe more ethical business practices re: bottom line, etc...sure. But in the absence of those (I don't see them investing?), this can only help the areas in my view.

by LuvDusty on Apr 27, 2012 12:52 pm • linkreport

LuvDusty -- that's the argument in a nutshell. In areas with limited development, a Walmart will jump start revitalization presumably.

Frankly, I don't really care about WM entering the city so much, I just don't have to shop there. What I care about is the urban design and intent of the projects in which they are located, because what's walmart now doesn't have to be later.

The thing is time. I'd argue in some neighborhoods, that 5 years more of an empty space is better than settling for a s***** project that will be in place for 20-40 years. That's how I'd score the GA Ave. location.

Skyland is different. Even so, the city shouldn't settle for Skyland being no different than the Home Depot shopping center. But they are.

WRT Montana & NY Avenues... even that one becomes less necessary if Jemal is going to redevelop the Hechts warehouse into high class mixed use residential. If that happens, it makes the other land available for build out much more valuable.

2. wrt the South Dakota/Fort Totten site, that used to be a shopping center with a Giant. It was plebian. Giant decamped in the early 1990s to the site just across the city line on Eastern Ave.

It's taken that long for revitalization energy to reach that area, which is why it's taken so long. Now, Walmart there? I figured they were just gonna do a supermarket but they aren't. I expect at that location they really believe that they will get a lot of business from PG County and Takoma Crossroads.

3. As far as good mom & pops go, for the most part DC has marginal retail, and the Walmart will kill a bunch of it (think agent orange). The city is also understored in a way (even though we have tons of empty commercial space) in terms of big box retail. But is it better to keep marginal retail around or go all Schumpeter on your a**? I don't have a lot of empathy for marginal retailers.

by Richard Layman on Apr 27, 2012 1:38 pm • linkreport

Seems simple to me: These plans match the current enviroment and market potential of each site. The suburban locations (a DC address does not equal urbanity) have suburban-style layouts and the urban/Metro-oriented locations are more dense and mixed-use. Of course the materials at Ft. Totten are "cheaper", the rents there will be cheaper, thereby supporting a less costly construction scheme - wood-frame, above-grade structured parking. Wal-mart and the associated developers have been profitable because of their sound market judgement. I realize many on this site would like all urban everywhere NOW!, but Walmart and these particular developers are businesses who are not willing to sacrifice positive investment returns to dreams of an urban landscape that may be decades premature.

by The Prophet on Apr 27, 2012 1:52 pm • linkreport

It's taken that long for revitalization energy to reach that area, which is why it's taken so long. Now, Walmart there? I figured they were just gonna do a supermarket but they aren't. I expect at that location they really believe that they will get a lot of business from PG County and Takoma Crossroads.

Wasn't there supposed to be a condo/apt project associated with the project as well? And it's right close to the Ft. Totten Metro. It just could be that by building a WalMart there,together with other retail and condos/apts, they could in essence be developing a nice little neighborhood from what is now sort of well, desolate. So it's not all bad.

Again, 10 years ago I was scared to get out of my car in CoHe. Today, I shop there happily. Without that Target/Best Buy development and all the recent changes, not sure we'd have that progress.

by LuvDusty on Apr 27, 2012 2:15 pm • linkreport

@Walker, Richard

There IS a lot of development that's happening or being talked about along Georgia Avenue near the Walmart there, but it's also in a fairly well-off area. Three blocks west of Georgia is the "Gold Coast," historically home to DC's black upper class. Within a mile of the Walmart are Crestwood, Shepherd Park and North Portal Estates, with median annual incomes around $140,000. And 16th Street Heights and Takoma are around $70-80,000, placing them solidly in the middle-class. And these conditions existed BEFORE the "gentrifiers" began moving into Petworth and Brightwood.

There's disposable income in this area, but a lot of it ends up in Silver Spring or elsewhere because the area is underserved for retail. It's not surprising that Walmart would want to locate here, but disappointing that Foulger-Pratt (the same folks who brought you Downtown Silver Spring) wouldn't see any more retail/housing/whatever potential with that property.

by dan reed! on Apr 27, 2012 2:33 pm • linkreport

In case you wanted to know where I got my figures:

http://projects.nytimes.com/census/2010/explorer (type in zip code 20011 and select "median household income")

by dan reed! on Apr 27, 2012 2:33 pm • linkreport

uh dan, that's where I live, I know, although there isn't dev. between GA Ave. and CT Ave. because there aren't opportunities. The opportunities are on GA.

and Prophet, it's not as simple as you make it out to be. Imagine U Street if Donatelli wasn't the developer of the Ellington, but that it had been done by a CDC or even Foulger Pratt. Likely it would have sucked, and it wouldn't have helped trigger the changes that you see there now.

by Richard Layman on Apr 27, 2012 3:15 pm • linkreport

Where the hell is "Skyland"? I've lived in DC for 35 years and I've never heard of the place.

by Old Hag on Apr 27, 2012 3:21 pm • linkreport

Where the hell is "Skyland"? I've lived in DC for 35 years and I've never heard of the place.

It's a n'hood in W7 located near Alabama ave and Good Hope/Naylor Road.

by HogWash on Apr 27, 2012 4:08 pm • linkreport

Richard,
Upper GA in 2012 is no way analogous to U Street in 2005. [Deleted for violating the comment policy.] Ellington was not the trigger that caused the uptick, it was the bang proving it was already happening. Are the Atlas Apartments on H Street the cause of the revitalization there or proof that developers are on the bandwagon to what has already begun? The U Street corridor was the next logical neighborhood for redevelopment as it crept eastward from Dupont. The intersection of Missouri and GA, is not currently mere blocks away from urban vitality - its miles. Its turn will come, but not before Petworth and other in-between areas revitalize. The same is true for the other suburban-style Walmart sites. Smart developers, retailers and lenders do not over build, that's how they stay in business. In time some of these areas may have rents that support mixed-use, urban-style projects, but that's the point. These things take time and jumping the gun with product that is out of sync with the life cycle of a neighborhood is a recipe for a failed project.

by The Prophet on Apr 27, 2012 4:50 pm • linkreport

Some of these comments are out of hand

1 Look at the current stuff in the area of some of the walmarts; there is hardly any public transit and or hardly any housing for blocks so why in the hell would you build a store meant for downtown.

2 All stores wont be supercenters

3 Why complain about Walmart but not any other large stores such as Target, BestBuy, Macys or when there were Sears and Hechinger in DC.

4 Some areas of DC aren't that highly developed try going around DC and surveying the area before saying what some areas need.

5 Quit using the word urban everywhere around here is urban until you get to Loudoun County or the middle of Charles County.

6 Some of the Walmarts would be located in low density areas such as with the Capitol Gateway, NY Ave and the Skyland locations why the hell would you build a highrise when everything except 2 or 3 buildings is 2 stories or less.

by kk on Apr 27, 2012 9:34 pm • linkreport

Phophet, obviously we both understand the dynamic. I just argue that key projects have an extranormal impact on what happens later.

E.g., compare the projects at the se and sw and ne corners of 13th and U Street to the nw corner (the Ellington).

It makes a world of difference. If the "Ellington" was more like the other ones in terms of execution and quality, the general improvement you see there and on 14th St. east of U Street would be significantly diminished, in my opinion anyway.

WRT Georgia Ave., of course I know the difference between being by a Metro station (Petworth, 7th St./Howard U) and not being by the Metro. (I'm not saying you're accusing me of anything or lack of knowledge either.)

So yes, the GA and MO intersection is less valuable, significantly, even though it is a major intersection, because it lacks the subway access of the NH and GA intersection. (Which is why the city should prioritize streetcar development on the street...)

But... you could have a project like the Atlas Flats even so, and yes, it's taken about 8 years for that project to come together, or you could have a project like the single story single use Walmart at GA Ave.

Me, I'd rather wait a few years with a still empty "blighted" space than right off the next 40 years for that space.

Similarly, if you know the 300 block of H St. NE north side, it was a gas station and some buildings, BP wanted to build a 50000 s.f. gas station on the site and the neighborhood fought it off. As the market changed, the owner decided to build a mixed use building, which finally broke ground last summer, and will have 200+ apartments and a Giant Supermarket.

To me, I think it was worth the 12 years of the property being empty to get what is coming. As a gas station, it likely would have been one for at least 2-3 decades, and would have significantly impacted negatively the west end of the corridor.

I guess, having moved here in 1987, and dealt with years of disinvestment, and after seeing so many s**** projects get built, projects which had neutral at best, negative mostly impacts in terms of further spurring additional revitalization, that I'd rather wait a bit, then settle for anything, anything usually being pretty crappy stuff.

I mean this is a shock:

- Atlas, http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/7122143503/in/photostream/
- East Capitol & 16th St. SE, http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/7122143513/in/photostream/

compared to the area in 1987 (although I liked the building there, which was an old Sears store dating from the late 1920s).

Projects like the Foulger-Pratt Walmart are basically the equivalent of this:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/7122143521/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/7122173139/in/photostream

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/7122178035/in/photostream (although for Bladensburg Road before the Atlas Flats, this is the equivalent of a Four Seasons Hotel...)

and only if you are absolutely desperate (e.g., East St. Louis, Detroit) should you settle for those, and ideally not in high profile locations either.

by Richard Layman on Apr 28, 2012 3:48 pm • linkreport

The rendering for the "Gonzaga" site is inaccurately portraying "green space" in a couple of instances. The area to the west of the store, between New Jersey and 1st NW, is currently being used as a gravel-surfaced parking lot. It will probably continue in that use until someone puts up another building.

In addition, the drawing depicts trees on the east side of the store next to the Gonzaga parking lot and football field. That space is an access lane for the school, and it will remain as an access lane - there will be no space for trees, unless they are planted on the Walmart property.

by John on May 1, 2012 8:55 am • linkreport

Fine designs, fine stores...they provide jobs to many who would never have the opportunity to maintain one. If one young person learns about the free enterprise system from WalMart's massive DC investment..it will be worth it.

by Pelham1861 on May 1, 2012 10:52 am • linkreport

walmart teach USA about free market capitalism, inspire all USANs to admire free capitalist system of China, where unions are crushed, and dissidents sent to free places for healing.

All who oppose Walmart are red commies, and are also fascist enemies of the people in need of reeducation.

by PeoplesRepublicofChinaExportBureau on May 1, 2012 10:56 am • linkreport

I'm about to close (next week) on my first home near 8th and Missouri NW-- just a few blocks from the Georgia Ave site. If only I knew before offering over $400k for my home that this monstrosity was planned right down the street! I've only stepped foot in Walmart maybe twice in my life (both times only to accompany a friend), I have no socio-political gripes with the company-- given recent improvements and pledged concessions. My concern is my property value and the extreme traffic mess that the project will create. The Fort Totten site is only about a mile away. Hello over saturation/cluster f@@ck! What we need at that old Chevy lot is a Metro station.

Why on earth would the DC council allow this? Someone should be protesting at thier offices every day! I certainly plan to call some old friends.

Is there anything else that can be done to block or modify the project at this late stage?

by Gigi on Jul 29, 2012 12:32 am • linkreport

Dan, what happened with two differtent stores in locations at Aspen Hill &/Rockville, Md. Any updates with those by yet?

by Laurie on Aug 14, 2012 12:13 am • linkreport

Just now coming across this. It is an excellent analysis of these proposals, with just the right design criteria. Well done. Not that it makes me happy that SprawlMart is coming to town, mind you . . .

by Kaid @ NRDC on Nov 29, 2012 1:58 pm • linkreport

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