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Breakfast links: Regulation


Photo by Sameer Vasta on Flickr.
Big-box protections can harm: Laws restricting big box stores to protect small retailers may not achieve that goal. Chain retailers adapted by building smaller stores that directly compete with local businesses, and are doing better than ever. (Atlantic Cities)

Follow the regs: A few Airbnb hosts comply with all of the licensing regulations to rent out their homes or extra apartments for short times, but most don't. DCRA agrees the regulations are outdated. Condo rules also usually forbid such rentals. (UrbanTurf)

What the frack?: The US Forest Service is currently weighing whether to permit hydraulic fracking in the George Washington National Forest, near the headwaters of the Potomac. Any accident could affect the drinking water of 4 million people. (Post)

Kentlands split over BRT: Residents of Gaithersburg's Kentlands neighborhood begged for a Corridor Cities Transitway stop, but now that they're getting one, other neighbors are up in arms. The station's an integral part of plans to give the famous New Urbanist community a downtown. (Gazette)

Pay the fare with your phone: A new phone app could revolutionize fare payments for infrequent riders. Tickets purchased online can be displayed on the phone with no change necessary. (Human Transit)

Howze wins the nomination: Alan Howze (whom GGW endorsed) received 52% of the vote and won the Democratic nomination to succeed Chris Zimmerman. He faces 2 anti-streetcar candidates in the special election, likely in March. (ArlNow)

Will more Dems run as independents?: Bryan Weaver dropped out of the April 1 Democratic primary for Ward 1 council, but will run in the November general election. That might be part of a trend, boosted by the very early primary. (WAMU)

Cyclists continue riding: Many local bicycle riders, with the help of multiple layers and some perspective, continued riding despite the cold. Ice, including on unplowed trails, was another matter. (Post)

And...: Silver Spring-based renewable energy provider Clean Currents ceased operations Friday, a casualty of the recent extreme weather. (WBJ) ... DC's new traffic enforcement cameras went live over the weekend. (Wash. Times) ... Georgetown's BID has raised $100,000 to study the gondola to Rosslyn. (UrbanTurf)

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Matt Malinowski is a consultant advising government clients on improving the energy efficiency of consumer electronic products, but is interested in all aspects of sustainable infrastructure and community resilience. He lives with his wife in the Truxton Circle/Bates neighborhood of DC. 

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@Big-box protections can harm

Hilarious, no surprise here, nevermind the fact that ONLINE RETAILERS have been DESTROYING small businesses and backward corporations like CRAP MART for the last decade. Like most activists causes, their logic is always decades behind the actual trends.

by Bill the Wanderer on Feb 3, 2014 8:44 am • linkreport

It seems to me that the regulations might not have protected small retailers, but they made the big box stores better fit into the urban fabric, which is a worthy end in and of itself.

by David Alpert on Feb 3, 2014 8:59 am • linkreport

RE: Kentlands/Lakelands

I used to take the Kentlands Blvd. bus to Shady Grove. If BRT takes 25 minutes then it is not really an improvement over the current travel time. The residents should be questioning that aspect of the plan if they are going to question anything.

As for the complaint about the routing and the entrance to the Lakelands - that is about the silliest argument possible.

by Gooch on Feb 3, 2014 9:04 am • linkreport

@David Alpert

To a point Mr. Alpert, but big boxes stores are merely chasing fleeting brick and mortar retail sales. Within urban areas you have a large collection of foolish highly paid individuals, that do not concern themselves with the rising cost premium involved with brick and mortar retail purchases. Any capitalist corporation would pounce on their stupidity. As the prices of items (you name the product, and I can assure you it is the SAME product) diverge further and further from main street USA prices, you will see even more of the ignorant yuppies start to scale back on brick and mortar retail sales. Eventually within ~20 years, a domino effect will occur. And yet another foundation of urbanity will crumble.

by Bill the Wanderer on Feb 3, 2014 9:29 am • linkreport

Kentlands sounds like a Georgetown story all over again. If they manage to derail the BRT there, in another 20 years they'll be wondering how to get a transit link like Georgetown is now.

by Thayer-D on Feb 3, 2014 9:29 am • linkreport

God I hope they hold back on fracking until they can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's safe. Right now it looks horrible and I don't see it being a viable alternative. They are really playing with fire on this one.

by Thayer-D on Feb 3, 2014 9:32 am • linkreport

Came here to make the point David made. Another plus for the virtue of a form based code as well.

by Drumz on Feb 3, 2014 9:34 am • linkreport

"...a large collection of foolish highly paid individuals"
"...of the ignorant yuppies start to scale back..."
"And yet another foundation of urbanity will crumble"

Why don't you jst come out and say you hate cities and the smarty pants who inhabit? It would be more direct.

by Thayer-D on Feb 3, 2014 9:34 am • linkreport

@David,
I think your point is poignant. As a smart growth advocate, I am not in the businesses in promoting protectionism so local retailers never have to compete or give customers what they want. What does matter to me, and I imagine many of your readers will agree, is to not destroy the urban fabric of a city by using an entire city block for a single suburban-style store and an accompanying parking lot. If big-box proves nimble enough to compete in a small space, good for them. We, as the consumers, make the choice where to spend our money.

by cmc on Feb 3, 2014 9:37 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D

Kentlands sounds like a Georgetown story all over again.

What story is that?

by Dizzy on Feb 3, 2014 9:38 am • linkreport

Was clear currents done in by a bump in electricity prices -- or by larger failures?

I'm sure the spot prices for electcity have gone up a bit. Mostly as a funciton of natural gas prices, not demand in the PJM grid -- most of the PJM grid would nat gas for heat, not electricity. Most of it.

But clear currents was supposed to be buying in bulk, and not on the spot market. If they were on the spot market something else was wrong.

by charlie on Feb 3, 2014 9:39 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D

On the contrary, most of the folks I know up in Kentlands/Lakelands have been waiting for the CCT to happen for quite a while.

There may be a class split going on as well. My understanding is that many of the earliest Kentlands/Lakelands residents were in the solid middle of middle class; the developer sold the original homes at very low prices. As the Kentlands/Lakelands property values have shot up recent purchasers are more upper middle class to wealthy. Again, just a conjecture; no idea how this does or does not play into the BRT discussion there.

by Gooch on Feb 3, 2014 9:42 am • linkreport

You could be right Gooch. I worked at the town architects office when Kentland was starting out 20 years ago and remember that many of the early residents where wide eyed idealists on the whole New Urbanist thing. From what I hear now, it's become the Chevy Chase of Gaithersburg, to it could very well be a class thing.

It reminds me of the opposition to metro from Georgetown that worried about being "linked" to the other communities in DC when DC's future was in question. The latest I've heard is they would love to get a transit link.

by Thayer-D on Feb 3, 2014 9:48 am • linkreport

Weaver will surely drop out if Brianne wins, which is a likely scenario.

On the other hand, if she loses by a small margin, then Weaver will scoop up Nadeau's supporters and force Graham to win twice. If Graham survives both challenges, he will have pulled off quite a feat.

by Ward 1 Guy on Feb 3, 2014 9:49 am • linkreport

@Ward 1 Guy - it's a likely scenario that Graham will lose in the primary? Why is that? Not that I'd be opposed to that outcome, but he's proven pretty resiliant in the past. Of course, Chuck Thies is otherwise occupied, and unable to run his campaign this time.

by dcd on Feb 3, 2014 10:14 am • linkreport

I think that article on smaller big boxes points out that the price of urban space and lack of parking would have caused this innovation anyway.

The H Street Wal-Mart fits in very well.

Of course with Amazon taking over retail and it's impending take-over of groceries, loading zones for delivery trucks on residential streets and safe places for packages will become critical.

Maybe WaPo can start editorializing for those.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 3, 2014 10:28 am • linkreport

@dcd Graham has an ethical cloud and Brianne has been pounding pavement nonstop since the day after the last election. Graham has unified opposition. He is quite vulnerable.

by Ward 1 Guy on Feb 3, 2014 10:33 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D
I'm sure he's got a point somwhere in there, but as usual it's lost in hyperbole. I'm truly suprised that we haven't been treated to at least 2 unfavorable comparisons to Portland, Oregon yet.

by Catherine on Feb 3, 2014 10:44 am • linkreport

The beauty of the Lakelands entrance on Great Seneca Highway:

http://goo.gl/maps/lsfYw

by Miriam on Feb 3, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

It seemed pretty clear from the announcement that Weaver was in the general election regardless.

by William on Feb 3, 2014 11:09 am • linkreport

The pay by phone is interesting but it doesnt seem to add much functionality over the smartcard system. I am also wary of asking bus drivers to take on new tasks. Is it going to be one app? Are they going to have to learn a variety of formats to confirm tickets were purchased etc? I definitely think its good to look into new options as long as we make sure there are also always suitable cash or pseudo cash (Smartrip/paper farecards) options too for those that don't have smartphones or credit cards.

by BTA on Feb 3, 2014 11:10 am • linkreport

I think sadly the age of the brick and mortar small mom and pop store is largely over. In terms of variety and ease, I almost never find myself shopping hyper locally except for things like food/beverages/snacks, luxury/impulse buys, and arts/crafts, because it is too expensive and takes too much extra effort. The benefit of being small is agility and personal touch, so if small businesses want to succeed they need to do events and have a strong and savvy web presence.

by BTA on Feb 3, 2014 11:15 am • linkreport

These mobile ticketing apps are goofy and are only useful for agencies that haven't yet managed to get smart cards (Tri-Met and commuter railroads). The app is clunky and has data retention problems (better not uninstall it or need your phone wiped, you'll lose everything!)

Maybe this is better than nothing for infrequent riders of some systems that don't have smartcards yet. But it sucks compared to tapping a smart card or your phone's NFC link.

by MLD on Feb 3, 2014 11:21 am • linkreport

@ Ward 1 Guy - Graham's ethical clouds aren't exactly new. What's different this time?

by dcd on Feb 3, 2014 11:25 am • linkreport

@Bill the Wanderer: You are 30 years out of date. The resurgence of "urbanity" in this country has been going on since the 90s, and is nicely correlated with the rise of the internet, so at this point it's safe to say that the two are compatible.

by alurin on Feb 3, 2014 11:25 am • linkreport

I hope Brianne wins, I'm not optimistic that she can take down Graham's machine, but it would be great.

by BTA on Feb 3, 2014 11:28 am • linkreport

@dcd

One thing is that Graham will only have one challenger at each stage of the race this time around.

by MLD on Feb 3, 2014 11:29 am • linkreport

If I remember there wasn't as wide of a discussion of the Graham ethics violations leading up to the last primary in 2010. Now I think it's relatively well known around the district. That said as a resident of Ward 1 I can tell you that no everyone cares or even reads the papers. Demographic shifts are certainly in Brianne's favor since Graham quite explicitly represents the old guard of DC politics.

by BTA on Feb 3, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

WaPo story that on a good day a commute by car from Springfield gets to DC as fast as Metro:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/does-metrorail-or-driving-work-best-for-commuters-starting-south-of-beltway/2014/02/01/a45b665c-89c4-11e3-833c-33098f9e5267_story.html

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 3, 2014 11:47 am • linkreport

I saw that, Tom. How did it take 25 minutes to drive from the starting point to the Metro platform (a little under 2 miles)?! Traffic must be insane.

by BTA on Feb 3, 2014 11:54 am • linkreport

If car commutes and rail commutes take the same time it's hard to get people to switch to rail. And Metro doesn't seem even as reliable as car commutes. If someone has cheap or free parking at work it's not even close. We'll end up back with "only poor people ride transit," as happened with buses, and public support will wither.

I guess we don't realize what rush hour traffic jams there are at suburban Metro stations.

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 3, 2014 12:06 pm • linkreport

@BTA
Do you mean "hyper locally" as in mom-and-pop only or just within a short distance from your home?

I've been thinking about this quite a bit myself, because I do by and large only shop within walking distance of my home (Old Town Alexandria). But it's a fairly mixed bag on mom-and-pop vs big national chains. New bathmat and toaster oven? Ross. New dress? Botique shop (or Ann Taylor, depending on how thin my wallet feels). Baby shower gift? Botique. New shoes? Nine West outlet ("outlet"--it has less square footage than my living room)).

I used to feel a bit bad about going to the national chains over the locally owened, mom-and-pop botique type places. But now it seesms to me that these national chains are what's keeping our main street alive and are possibly what's helping the botiques as well.

If I needed a new outfit for work (dress and shoes) but did not want to pay botique prices, I'd have to head to the closest mall to find Ann Taylor and Nine West. But as it is, I head to King Street. Once there, I may see something in a locally-owned store's window that I may like better, or a smaller accessory to go along with my chain-store outfit, or an idea for a gift for someone else etc. But really, it keeps me in the habit of going to main street to shop. And that has to be beneficial for every busniess on main street, right? I'm not a huge fan of online shopping for reasons that may to effect or apply to others (I don't like to wait, over-packaging drives me nuts and women's clothing sizes are useless at best), so I don't tend to do it much, and I still couldn't tell you the last time I've been inside a mall, and it is barely intentional (unless being too lazy to go all the way to the mall is intentional)--so clearly something's working.

by Catherine on Feb 3, 2014 12:15 pm • linkreport

If someone has cheap or free parking at work it's not even close.

If you work in downtown DC and your employer provides free/discounted parking but no Metro benefit then talk to them about putting some money towards a Metro benefit. That's screwed up.

by MLD on Feb 3, 2014 12:20 pm • linkreport

Following up on the story last week about the layoffs at Patch.com, it looks like all of the 48 remaining Patch sites in Maryland are being managed by a single editor, Deb Belt, possibly with the assistance of Elizabeth Janney (home site is listed as Havre de Grace). Laura Thornton who used to manage the Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Silver Spring sites, Tiffany Arnold who used to manage the Rockville and Gaithersburg sites are gone, along with many others.

by Frank IBC on Feb 3, 2014 12:49 pm • linkreport

@BTA/MLD

I wouldn't be so quick to rule out smartphone payment systems, if properly implemented. If you visit Starbucks even occasionally (yes, I know, evil global corporation, yada, yada, yada), I've noticed that at least a very large minority of customers are paying by smartphone app, a quick scan of a 3D barcode. I don't see why this wouldn't work for turnstiles, buses or even parking meters--certainly faster than paper cards. Plus, I could drop my phone in the Potomac today and my account and balance would be just the same on a new phone tomorrow.

by sproc on Feb 3, 2014 12:51 pm • linkreport

As a resident of Lakelands, I do not think the Gazette article at all captures the history of support for the CCT in the Kentlands and Lakelands. The opposition to the CCT in the Kentlands and Lakelands comes from a very small, specific group of individuals. The Lakelands HOA formed an ad hoc committee on which I served a few years ago to review the proposed Kentlands alignment. The committee work and survey results showed that the community was in support of the proposed Kentlands alignment. There are some design considerations that the community wants to see addressed such as rebuilding the stone entrance walls and tree preservation/reforestation next to the lanes. However, the Kentlands alignment of the CCT will bring increased transit access with frequent, regular peak and off peak service (rather than 20-30 minutes during peak and less often during non peak). In addition, the CCT will allow the redevelopment of the original strip plaza to further build up Kentlands Downtown. The bicycle connections the CCT will provide also will be of great benefit to those living in the area. There are still plenty of new urbanist folks in the Kentlands and Lakelands and one article in the Gazette to fan controversy does not make real controversy.

by ujavitiz on Feb 3, 2014 12:59 pm • linkreport

"But now it seesms to me that these national chains are what's keeping our main street alive and are possibly what's helping the botiques as well"

Amen. Someday flying or shipping products from far flung manufacturing and distributinon centers might show up in everyday prices, but for now, there's no way to beat the prices this system deliveres. Putting these larger stores in "humane" sized buildings that play well with their neighborhoods seems to be the best way to keep mainstreets vital and therefore essential components of a places sence of community. The security guard policed environments of malls and mega stores will never be an adequate substitute for public space, at least from a civic point of view.

by Thayer-D on Feb 3, 2014 1:14 pm • linkreport

Re: Retail

The future of mom-and-pop retail is restaurants/bars. That's where they have a big advantage over chains by providing a unique experience that obviously can't be replicated on the internet. Retailers need to think more about providing a memorable experience than a simple commodity product.

by Falls Church on Feb 3, 2014 1:54 pm • linkreport

I was specifically referring to locally owned only to the exclusion or any chains that are headquartered outside of the city. It's really not easy to limit yourself that way even in a city like DC that does have a lot of local options.

by BTA on Feb 3, 2014 2:05 pm • linkreport

Yeah actually Pew has done some great research on smartphone usage demographics which I think is incredibly useful to our area of work. http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Smartphone-Ownership-2013.aspx That said they found that only a very small portion of low income people over the age of 30 have smartphones ~30% or so which means we have to make sure we aren't shutting out the most vulnerable people in the process.

by BTA on Feb 3, 2014 2:09 pm • linkreport

The pay-by-phone app is so revolutionary it's been used in Japan for years. The US is just behind the curve on this one.

by Burd on Feb 3, 2014 2:14 pm • linkreport

Japan doesn't use anything like this, they have phones with NFC tech so that you tap your phone and go.

@sproc
A barcode isn't going to scan as easily as a wireless transmission. Also it seems like this app is only used for flashing a pass at the bus driver, the barcode is only used for fare verification on proof-of-payment systems.

by MLD on Feb 3, 2014 2:23 pm • linkreport

@ MLD

First, the Japan's NFC tap-and-go ticketing is quicker, and is the future of global e-ticketing.

Second, Portland lacks the infrastructure to ticket by phone, requiring human verification.

So you're right, Japan uses a more advanced system that Portland's new app is trying to mimic. But there's nothing revolutionary about it, b/c Portland's still got a long way to go!

by Burd on Feb 3, 2014 2:57 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D
Why don't you jst come out and say you hate cities and the smarty pants who inhabit? It would be more direct.

I'm merely stating the facts, I neither exhibit jealousy or am overly concerned by the developments. Furthermore, one could argue that I do live in urbanity, as I live in unincorporated Montgomery County and am precisely 5.84 miles from the direct center of Logan Circle, or approximately a 38 minute bicycle ride.

@cmc
...is to not destroy the urban fabric of a city by using an entire city block...

Good I am glad you are admitting that you are paying a premium for this "in store" experience. How long do you suppose enough folks will pay for this premium to sustain it. At one time people paid to have shoes manufactured for them on the spot(sans maybe London) which has long since gone away as innovations in retail and manufacturing of said products has progressed. But you are right about one thing, consumers dictate all, and they continue to pursue lower prices; low cost strategy is alive and well and will ELIMINATE 14th street retail eventually.

@Gooch and Dizzy and Thayer-D

From Google streetview and satellite Kentlands/Lakelands look a lot like Celebration, FL. A wretched(truman show film esq) place that is horribly disconnected from local society and Mr. Disney thought it would actually be a good place for employees of Disneyworld to live.

@Tom Coumaris

Of course with Amazon taking over retail and it's impending take-over of groceries, loading zones for delivery trucks on residential streets and safe places for packages will become critical.

Thanks for reading, of course you are correct, furthermore there will be a time when ordering online will be faster than physically walking or driving to the store and purchasing said item. So yes, physical space retail(the ground floor component of many a 14th street developments) is DEAD as a doornail. Also there are several lock type bags and boxes one can purchase for less than a happy hour purchase.

@Catherine

I'm sorry if I personalize my opinions as I believe actual results are better than ivory tower thinking. Discussion of philosophy and theory may be necessary but it should rarely effect actual societal policies(which should only be based on what works), of which morality is the only truly applicable philosophy of a functioning community.

I can compare this city to others I've lived in if you like. Portland, OR was merely a pit stop for me. But I learned a lot especially getting to live in the birth place of this "livable city movement" that is spreading all over the world especially as Washington DC, now that it has the cash, can saturate itself in this line of planning.
If I needed a new outfit for work (dress and shoes) but did not want to pay botique prices, I'd have to head to the closest mall to find Ann Taylor and Nine West..
Catherine check out Etsy.com for your dresses. They allow folks to make and sell tiny things from their home like little men made out of yarn, without having to open up a knickknack and trinket store on 14th street.
@BTA
I think sadly the age of the brick and mortar small mom and pop store is largely over.
Do you think that is a problem with many Washington DC neighborhoods focusing so much on building ever more retail or do you think my doom and gloom predictions of a physical retail store crisis is overblown? Put the pieces together BTA, doesn't take much to come an identical end scenario. I don't have a clue what these developers are thinking. Oh wait, I do, short term profits, pass the problem on to the next schmuck.

@alurin
...is nicely correlated with the rise of the internet, so at this point it's safe to say that the two are compatible.
???...sorry they are on two completely different trajectories. Urbanity is gimmicky, like shag carpet in your rumpus room was in the 1970s. The declining haves (while they still have income) are enjoying paying a premium for housing and putting up with more crap, like stolen packages, assaults, etc. I am basing my urban living outlook on sound economic theory.

@Thayer-D
..there's no way to beat the prices this system deliveres...
I don't know if that is a joke or what, a handmade toilet paper holder, crest toothpaste, hell live cherry trees, are all cheaper online.

@Falls Church
The future of mom-and-pop retail is restaurants/bars.
I think you are confusing SERVICES with retail intermediaries, two totally different ways of making money. But you are on the right track.

@Burd

One difference is in Portland's transit system, minus the buses, it's based on the honor system. Therefore the ticket purchase would not need to be scanned by anything. Regardless a good portion of people using TriMet don't pay anything to use the subway/tramway/streetcars.

by Bill the Wanderer on Feb 3, 2014 3:31 pm • linkreport

Re: commuting to the WaPo offices--if time is even, then give me the version that lets me read for half an hour on my way to and from the office. I think our increasingly always-on culture and the desire to make use of time efficiently gives a not-insignificant benefit to transit. For me, it outweighs the pleasures of having your own climate-controlled cocoon in heavy traffic.

The metro trip probably could shave 5-10 minutes too, as the author mentions making some mistakes at the Franconia parking garage and not transferring to yellow/orange, though I understand the appeal of the one-seat right.

by worthing on Feb 3, 2014 3:50 pm • linkreport

Bill is right that large swaths of retail is dying and online purchasing will probably destroy a good amount of big box chains. That said, some of the cost and time benefits might see problems if employers start treating fulfillment center employees like humans.

That said, no one is moving to downtown for easier purchasing. Bill Mitchell noticed this when Amazon and Pets.com first came around. Instead, he responded to his techno-disurbanist critics that delivery services make more sense in cities. Specifically, they reduce the need for an individual to have a car and drive everywhere to shop.

Mitchell realized that it's the social connections that make people go to cities, just like why they go online. And that was 15 years ago, at least.

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 3, 2014 4:15 pm • linkreport

@BTA--got it, and I totally agree. I was mostly just wondering how you were picturing hyper local.

@Bill
You still only speak in hyperbole and stereotypes and it only serves to undermine and/or distract from the points you try to make. I may or may not agree with you--I'll never know because it is nearly impossible to read past the absurd generalizations and assumptions.

And gee, what is this Etsy thing of which you speak? Do I use this typewriter attached to the screen I'm looking at to access it? Etsy (1) doesn't tend to have professional clothing, which is what I was specifically talking about (2) tends more toward the boutique pricing (3) still involves waiting, packaging and size/fit/return issues like all other online retailers, which are the three specific things I said I dislike about online shopping. Others may prefer it because there are definate positives. People are different. That's what's so great about having options.

by Catherine on Feb 3, 2014 4:17 pm • linkreport

Bill, like Catherine points out, there are segments that probably won't disappear, ones that require bodily contact, clothing being an important one.

I don't know what you do, but many people require clothing that fits. Inexpensive customized clothing is still a fantasy, although people are really trying.

You could say that caring about looks is foolish. Maybe it is. But it's a necessary part of daily life for many people. Looking professional is "what works."

You could dismantle these standards, but that would require some ivory tower theorizing first.

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 3, 2014 4:26 pm • linkreport

@Bill the Wanderer

It still requires human verification. In many tram systems I've used that are based on the honour system, fare evasion is rampant and inspections become routine. Tap and go eliminates that problem.

by Burd on Feb 3, 2014 4:30 pm • linkreport

@Neil--

Also, why should I need to wait a couple of days for my toaster oven or bathmat or pack of athletic socks or ironing board to arrive? There's a perfectly good store right around the corner that sells those things, at decent prices (Ross, actually--a much smaller one than you'd see in a strip mall, and which you'd hardly know is there). So, for me, it is significantly preferable to run over there on Saturday morning, get what I need to get, go home and set it up/do whatever it is I need to do, and get on with life.

Ordering from Amazon may save 20 minutes of my time, but the packages may come on different days/ on an evening I don't get home until late and don't *feel* like unpacking and setting up a new toaster. To me, it seems very silly to spend my Saturday morning ordering things whose identicals (or equivalents ) are sitting on a shelf 3 blocks away that I could just run over and get myself, probably at the same price, or at least close enough to be worth having the item right now. Plus, have you ever paid for shipping on an ironing board?

Having "everyday" stores like Ross/Walmart etc on a smaller scale, to fit into a main street environment might really be a good thing for main street stores--chains or not. Because of them in my neighborhood, I've never been a mall shopper, or much of an online shopper because I don't need/want to be. And that keeps my neighbors employed, my main street bustling, and (probably...this was my original point) lifts the mom and pops up, too--if we're all in the habit of shopping on main street instead of MegaMall or Amazon, we're more likely to know about/go into/recommend the mom and pop boutique places, yes?

by Catherine on Feb 3, 2014 4:40 pm • linkreport

I don't know what you do, but many people require clothing that fits. Inexpensive customized clothing is still a fantasy, although people are really trying.

I suppose it depends on what you consider inexpensive, but I have suits and shirts hand-made by a Hong Kong tailor who comes to DC twice a month. He re-measures me each time, and I get the clothes in about a month. While not "inexpensive," they are a fraction of the cost of comparable quality off the rack items available here, and a much smaller fraction of the cost of hand-tailored goods in the US.

Of course, I suppose I could check out Etsy . . .

by dcd on Feb 3, 2014 5:01 pm • linkreport

That works for you and probably a few other people; if any mass of people started trying to get their clothes from Hong Kong tailor guy either his prices would go up or there just would only be enough time for a limited number of clients.

by MLD on Feb 3, 2014 5:07 pm • linkreport

About buying clothes online, I just had this happen this weekend ...

I needed new jeans (okay, to be honest, the wife said that I needed new jeans), I browsed Amazon and saw that my favorites were on sale. But, I still needed to travel to the store to try them on because I wasn't 1005 sure which size I needed or which wash I wanted. Went out to Tyson's because we were also visiting L.L. Bean (which is a mail order company that thinks stores have a place in their business plans) and found the jeans that I wanted. Guess what, they were $2 cheaper on Amazon, but I got them at the store while I was out because I could walk out with them in hand.

Brick-and-mortar retail won't die but it will have to evolve. In my opinion, there are really two options: 1) the Downtown model, which means revitalizing a downtown area with a mix of chain and local retail with service providers (restaurant, bar, et al.); or 2) the Upscale Mall model, which has a mix of high-end chains/experiences (e.g. Tesla at Tyson's) with standard fare (department stores, restaurants, movies, et al.) that are transformed into a focal point for an area (for a non-USA example, see the Westfield London Mall).

Cheers!

by Thad on Feb 3, 2014 5:21 pm • linkreport

@Catherine
And gee, what is this Etsy thing of which you speak? Do I use this typewriter attached to the screen I'm looking at to access it?
Geesh, I was just making a suggestion, considering my other is looking at buying her wedding dress on etsy I figured it could fit your needs for office wear dresses...man you have a snappy attitude.

I don't know what you do, but many people require clothing that fits.You could say that caring about looks is foolish.
No it is not foolish, put your best foot forward, every occupation, from a plumber to a senior analyst at Corporate Executive Board requires clean appearances. Your look says a lot about how you are feeling about yourself. I'm no men's clothier, but even I can walk down K street and have seen it all, fully buttoned coats, wrong colored socks, trousers too long, ties with improper configured knots(windsor knots go on spread collar shirts, obvious!), shirts not ironed, to much facial hair, etc.

@Burd
Tap and go eliminates that problem.
It would be even better if that RFID chip could just be charged when you walked through the doors like the EASY PASS for cars on toll roads.

Also, why should I need to wait a couple of days for my toaster oven or bathmat or pack of athletic socks or ironing board to arrive?
Amazon will whittle the time down to same day shortly.
and don't *feel* like unpacking and setting up a new toaster.
So I guess toasters are a weekly purchase for you then, may I recommend the black and decker toaster oven, much more reliable. And in less something has changed toasters are sold in boxes at target. I am hoping amazon does switch to a reusable plastic shipping container as the cardboard is a waste and adds to the overall cost.
probably at the same price
haha, not even close, even with TAXES, shipping, it's ALWAYS cheaper online, ALWAYS.
Having "everyday" stores like Ross/Walmart etc on a smaller scale, to fit into a main street environment might really be a good thing for main street stores--chains or not.
That's the thing, all that ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION to build all those extra stores, just so the folks with the extra disposable income can peruse in an inefficient manner.

And that keeps my neighbors employed
Placated or employed? Worried they might take YOUR job Catherine?

if we're all in the habit of shopping on main street instead of MegaMall or Amazon, we're more likely to know about/go into/recommend the mom and pop boutique places, yes?
Yes, but eventually your line of thinking will die, because you will die(said in the utmost respect).

@MLD
I have gotten great off the rack suits from overstock.com, the coats and trousers only required minor adjustments by a local drycleaner/alterations shop. I'd put it up against the SUITS on the tv show SUITS any day of the week.

by Bill the Wanderer on Feb 3, 2014 5:36 pm • linkreport

@Bill
I'm only "snappy" because I don't appreciate being talked down to, especially by someone who very clearly does not know what he is talking about but who sees it fit to dictate how all the rest of us should want to live because he has said so. If that is not your intention, then you need to adjust how you talk to people.

The toaster oven was an example of a recent purchase. I only had a regular pop-up toaster before and it broke, and I wanted a toaster oven to reheat leftovers in sometimes. But yes, I can see how you would think that I buy a toaster oven every week.

The store I'm talking of is in a 30+ year old building on a 200+ year old city block, with no dedicated parking, and none of any of the TERRIBLE EVILS you snap-to judge about a place you have never once set foot in. Do UPS trucks run on unicorn farts?

The toaster oven came in a box. Amazon would have shipped it in another box, probably surrounded by packing peanuts. I'm familiar with the reusable container idea. I've used Peapod before. I also dislike the reusable plastic shipping containers. Because then I'm stuck with them until the next Peapod delivery. Or I've got to arrange for a special pickup of them to get them out of my apartment. The height of efficiency indeed.

And yep, it keeps my neighbors employed. I have neighbors. And some of them work retail. Some, even, work retail on our main street. Shocking but true. My job will endure one way, but thank you for your concern and (again!) your snap-to judgement of what my motivations MUST be. Being painted with a broad brush is always so enjoyable.

I do hope I'm dead when your Utopian vision of living in pods and having everything zipped to you, with zero interaction with actual people, or community comes to fruition. So thank you for that, at least. Let's just hope my kids don't get any ideas. Maybe I'll start training them to toe your line right now. If YOU don't want downtown retail centers, don't live in one, or don't shop in one or whatever. If YOU don't want to pay all that tons and tons of extra money--don't.

I, personally, have found the prices comparable, particularly when you factor in shipping and returns. I also don't buy very many durable goods so it doesn't make a huge difference. You may find differently. You, also, I believe are a major sufferer of confirmation bias and wouldn't comprehend your preexisting worldview to be wrong even if the pricetag was staring you in the face. But...how would you even know? If you never go to brick-and-mortar....presumably you've got no idea what it's like in there?

by Catherine on Feb 3, 2014 6:21 pm • linkreport

especially by someone who very clearly does not know what he is talking about

No need to get personal.
You are entitled to your opinions madam, but I am merely interpreting the future given the amount of information available to me currently. It just costs less to manufacture/produce/distribute said item when more middle men/facilities are removed. This in turn usually leads to a price reduction. That is a fact. You can vent at me again, but it won't change the facts.
with zero interaction with actual people, or community comes to fruition.
I don't know what kind of socializing you do, but I much rather make friends at a barbecue in my backyard/or a block party, then try and make friends with my local clothing boutique store manager. Considering all of the time saved not walking/driving to stores I can chit chat with my neighbors for longer periods of time.

Furthermore your's, mine, everybody's discretionary income, is thanks to the world's poor(currently 80% of the world lives on less than $10 dollars a day). In addition, 80% of the world's population live in a country where income differentials are widening(yep, the USA is one such country) I'm worried for my future children's future. Inefficiencies don't go to your neighbor the retail clerk, they go to the top income earners, that is also a fact. Just think about that as you contribute to the inefficient marketplace. Oh yeah, I comment on here daily, and my posts are often sprinkled with #Sarcasm,#Sarcasm,#Sarcasm, and #Sarcasm. Good night.

by Bill the Wanderer on Feb 3, 2014 6:58 pm • linkreport

Bill,
I like how you lament people getting personal while you call whole groups of people foolish and ignorant.

Brick and mortar stores where declared dead 20 years ago, yet they still keep opening and thriving. In fact, do you remember when cities where declared obsolete? That was more than 50 years ago, before our physiology caught up with us. Turns out humans actually do need to walk, socialize, and have a sense of community.

As for all that time we could save to BBQ with our neighbors...Every time technology makes life more convenient we end up filling it with some substitute. I'm not saying that going to the gym or facebooking is a waste of time, but if walking around a city doing chores was so inefficient, why do people keep doing it? People aren't machines, and creativity isn't a logarithm, that is also a fact.

"And yet another foundation of urbanity will crumble."

Urbanity being the quality of being urbane, refined courtesy or politeness. Sounds like you have a plan. I look forward to hearing your sarcasm sprinkled with facts.

by Thayer-D on Feb 3, 2014 9:44 pm • linkreport

Good I am glad you are admitting that you are paying a premium for this "in store" experience. How long do you suppose enough folks will pay for this premium to sustain it.

People will always pay a premium for experiences because life is short and experiences are what you live for. Buying a commodity on Amazon will never compare to hunting for a reclaimed wood coffee table at Pixies on 14th or buying an old map at Eastern Market that comes with a story. You know what the number one activity is for people on vacation? Not eating out, not sightseeing, not sitting on the beach... shopping. Has always been, probably will be for the foreseeable future.

by Falls Church on Feb 3, 2014 10:58 pm • linkreport

@Bill--you're the one who started with the ad hominems so if you don't like it, well, charity begins at home or something like that.

Impressive that you know some very basic facts about the world economy and inequality. I do not share the opinion that that's solvable by advocating for the destruction merchant class and concentrating access to goods to powerful mega-companies who are only accessed through a computer and an internet connection (and who can, and do raise prices on a whim once their market share grows/people become more dependent on them...http://www.wired.com/business/2014/02/amazon-prime-good-true/). But you are certainly welcome to your own opinion.

You didn't actually address any of the counterpoints presented so, I've got nothing else to add. I like city life, you clearly do not. Luckily for us, there are options for both of us to live how we please.

by Catherine on Feb 4, 2014 9:42 am • linkreport

@Catherine

You don't even live in a urban city, you stated you live in Alexandria, which I would describe as small town feeling. I'm sorry, but we when I refer to urban areas, I assume most would agree, we are referring to 14th street, Dupont Circle, etc. You might want to come up to U street sometime, it affords a much better night out than say Daniel o'Connell's Pub...

I do not share the opinion that that's solvable by advocating for the destruction merchant class and concentrating access to goods to powerful mega-companies who are only accessed through a computer and an internet connection
Assume much????
What I said was " It just costs less to manufacture/produce/distribute said item when more middle men/facilities are removed." Why you would think I'm exclusively referring to amazon I don't know.

I like city life, you clearly do not.
I like land use that is not manipulated and distorted by regulations, zoning laws, and inequalities. Whatever iteration it evolves into I'm happy with that. Clearly the urban environment, which DOES NOT INCLUDE where you live, does not conform to those stipulations yet.

@ Falls Church
reclaimed wood coffee table at Pixies on 14th
Pixies doesn't buy anything. I have two words for you "estate sales"...trust me it is a vintage furniture hunters dream, without the Miss Pixies markup(my goodness those prices are crazy)!

by Bill the Wanderer on Feb 4, 2014 10:22 am • linkreport

Alexandria is older than Washington and has a population of about 180K. Making it the 6th largest city by population in Virginia.

It's not a small town.

by drumz on Feb 4, 2014 10:26 am • linkreport

OK, Bill and Catherine, this discussion has crossed the comment policy line numerous times. You are both making a lot of interesting and substantial points as well, and so I've been letting it go, but we need to stop with the back and forth personal sniping part of it. Please feel free to keep on responding to the various points about the substance of city life, retail, etc. but please knock off the "you did this" "you said that" stuff that has been the first paragraph of each of your comments recently. Let's just skip that part and it'll be great. Thanks.

by David Alpert on Feb 4, 2014 10:27 am • linkreport

*correction, 150k.

Besides. Old town Alexandria is absolutely the urban form that many smart growth advocates/new urbanists want to emulate in general.

by drumz on Feb 4, 2014 10:28 am • linkreport

@drumz

Heck, National Harbor has more street life after 6pm than Old Town, nobody is discounting the historic nature of Alexandria, but in the totality of the Washington DC agglomeration, it is a suburb .

by Bill the Wanderer on Feb 4, 2014 10:33 am • linkreport

Sure,

It's a suburb sure, but it's not "suburban" in the typical sense we associate with sprawl (single use, auto dominated, lots of surface parking, street hierarchy instead of a grid).

That stuff matters, regardless of whether a place is a suburb or not.

So I'm not sure why someone's opinion on retail is discounted when they live in Old Town. Especially when old town has the kind of retail that many neighborhoods in DC would kill for. Even if you are convinced that soon all storefronts will close as amazon drones drop packages off at my house before I even realize I need them.

by drumz on Feb 4, 2014 10:40 am • linkreport

tl;dr,
Built form is what matters. Not the label of suburb or city and ontological debates about what that means.

by drumz on Feb 4, 2014 10:43 am • linkreport

@Drumz
I don't mean to quibble, but outside of Old Town, which is merely a small percentage of Alexandria's land, is some of the worst suburban crap in Washington DC, just drive down 1 south of crystal city(I'm aware it is actively being converted to a denser urban nature)... And all that wasteful land use garbage between 395 and 95. You're right though, what's the point of this?, I will convert back to occasional lurker status, sorry to cause such opinionated pushback against the homogeneous hive.

by Bill the Wanderer on Feb 4, 2014 10:52 am • linkreport

I'm not saying stop posting, but if you declare something to be true and people don't think it is, or that there is something left unconsidered, then you'll naturally see push back. Especially if there are issues of fact that are being disputed. And saying that people are wrong because they don't live in a city is probably not going to engender a sense of goodwill and mutual understanding.

Anyway, in Alexandria you've also got Del Ray, the area around the Federal court, cameron run, and potomac yard as you point out. Those are all urban places (and a good sized chunck of Alexandria's area and population), that's what matters in a discussion like this. Not whether the town overall is a suburb or not.

There is lots of sprawl in Alexandria, that doesn't mean there are no lessons to be learned from Old Town.

by drumz on Feb 4, 2014 11:01 am • linkreport

Bill,
Quibbling about the exact definition of what is a city vs. suburb is pointless since a well functioning city is an agglomeration of what are essentially small towns, ie, neighborhoods. Whether it's adjacent to downtown or three neighborhoods out, it's still part of the larger city, especially when linked with transit.

The bigger point is that people are craving community in any form or location, be it in the urbanizing suburbs or in town. This is a demonstrable fact and should be obvious to someone who professes to follow the market's lead.

As to how government can help support the quality of it's ever increasing resident base, the idea of downsizing large box stores seems as evident as downsizing the highway exit ramps as they dump into nieghborhoods. In otherwords, I wouldn't restrict any merchant from doing business up till their method of selling goods became detrimental to the overall health of the comminity. Of course, that'll be an endless subjective battle, but that's what elections are for.

by Thayer-D on Feb 4, 2014 11:32 am • linkreport

@Bill < I'm sorry, but we when I refer to urban areas, I assume most would agree, we are referring to 14th street, Dupont Circle, etc.

You assumed incorrectly, then. As drumz has illustrated. Drumz has nicely explained what "urban" refers to in the context of this area, this blog and urban studies in general. Just because it is or is not inside city limits does not mean that it is or is not urban or suburban etc. "A suburb" is different from "suburban" and "a city" does not make something "urban".

"It just costs less to manufacture/produce/distribute said item when more middle men/facilities are removed."

That's not only what you said, though. Your handpicked quote is mathemetical fact. But you also said that people who shop in them are "foolish", "ignorant yuppies" and that if people do it your way "eventually within ~20 years...another foundation of urbanity will crumble". Perhaps I assumed your further point, but that is the problem with speaking in hyperbole--it doesn't really lend to a nuanced understanding of a complex point. The way you presented your point, and by only discussing online retailers (Amazon and Etsy by name) you have left the strong impression of advocating for no more merchent class (the "middlemen") and concentration of access to goods in (comparative to the status quo) a few hands that requires the internet to get to.

It took quite some leaps of assumption about me and my life to think I'd need an invite to check out U Street sometime. You have no idea who I am, where I work, what I do for fun/hobbies/volunteerism, where my friends and family live, if I'm from here and if not how long I've lived here and where specifically I've lived before my current address.

Why go from a discussion about local retail to local nightlife? If you truly believe that National Harbor has more nightlife than Old Town (or really, anywhere in the tri-state area with more than 4 bars in a zipcode), then you really are just seeing what you want to see or have a very poor understanding of the area. Either way, resorting snide digs at an individual or their neighborhood isn't particularly helpful or pertainent to the discussion.

@drumz,

There is lots of sprawl in Alexandria, that doesn't mean there are no lessons to be learned from Old Town.

Exactly. There's lots of sprawl in DC limits, and in NYC limits etc. So you take the places where things are working out, and try to apply them elsewhere.

by Catherine on Feb 4, 2014 12:09 pm • linkreport

Gah, Sorry Dave. Scrolled too fast and didn't see you there. You're right of course, and these are the same tired arguments that pop up every now and again. Stepping away and ignoring permanently.

by Catherine on Feb 4, 2014 12:22 pm • linkreport

@Bill
Pixies doesn't buy anything. I have two words for you "estate sales"...trust me it is a vintage furniture hunters dream, without the Miss Pixies markup(my goodness those prices are crazy)!

Who has time to go to estate sales? I want my artisan vintage reclaimed wood coffee table and I want it now and I'm a law firm associate who has plenty of money but is short on time (or at least that's what Pixies target demo is saying). Plus, I saw it at Pixies while I was waiting for a friend to show up at a nearby restaurant so it's destined to be mine.

Pixies has nothing to fear from Amazon.

by Falls Church on Feb 4, 2014 1:30 pm • linkreport

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