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Where to put the noise?

Mixed-use development is the best kind for so many reasons, like enabling people to live near where they work, and maintaining "eyes on the street" all day. However, it does create a few problems, like noise. There's a big market for restaurants, bars, nightclubs and live music, but it can also be disruptive to residents.

Photo by Capannelle on Flickr.

At yesterday's Retail Strategy meeting, Barbara Kahlow of the West End Citizens' Association spoke of noise concerns as a primary issue for the community. Residents along 17th Street in Dupont have been at odds with the local restaurants over noise for many years. The property owner of the corner store at 14th and T told the Dupont Circle Conservancy that they can't find a tenant because the ANC is preventing any new liquor licenses in that area. Sometimes the residents have a point, other times they might be demanding too much.

The usual solution is to put restaurants and bars in less residential, less developed areas, like the new Ballpark district, which was mostly warehouses and parking lots until recently, and whose few residents would welcome stores and restaurants to improve the neighborhood. But eventually, the numbers of residents increase and so do the bars, and the amount of noise, and complaints rise. This is happening in the Gallery Place and Mount Vernon Triangle area, where the neighborhood's own success is now an obstacle to further growth.

Neighborhood blog The Triangle reports on the controversy over what kind of retail to put at 5th and I. One proposal includes a small jazz club. One commenter on Penn Quarter Living wrote, "I don't think clubs of any type directly next to housing works," while FourthandEye, author of the Triangle post, disagrees. "Do people really want this area to be 15 blocks of highrises, Quiznos and dry cleaners? ... This is downtown city living!"

If we build mixed-use, then every club is going to be near housing. We can avoid having too many clubs in one place, to spread the noise around; on the other hand, districts like Adams Morgan and U Street draw more people because of the wealth of choices and proximity of one to the other. Soon there won't be a place for a bar that's not next to a residential neighborhood, meaning every one will generate complaints. Yet we need them. It's not a debate that will go away.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


I fully agree there doesn't need to be a bunch of clubs in residential areas, 2 and 3 am in the morning you got a bunch of idiots who are drunk, making noise, double parking, parking in front of drive ways, fire hydrants etc.

Good example look at NOMA and the clubs popping up there all those cars are parking on the residential streets, leaving lights on, blocking sidewalks, streets and making noise from like 10pm to 4 am on Fridays, Saturdays and sometimes Sundays.

by kvan on Mar 27, 2008 4:34 pm • linkreport

I think the question is, where *should* these go? I totally agree they are a nuisance to residents. Yet there's a market for them and the city should have bars and clubs to meet the demand just as it should have enough grocery stores and cafes. Everyone wants the clubs somewhere else.

by David Alpert on Mar 28, 2008 8:54 am • linkreport

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