Zoning Review discusses retail
Wednesday's Zoning Review meeting on Retail Strategy discussed the good and the bad of retail.
The previous meeting's notes included a line that the Cleveland Park overlay may not be serving the community well. This brought out several overlay defenders including George Idelson, president of the CP Citizens Association, who argued that the overlay works very well. "Thanks to the overlay, we are not a restaurant row," he said. The overlay may have had some problems, like being hard to change or update, and DCRA hasn't always enforced it effectively.
The group didn't spend much time of this topic, but a few people defended the overlay while a few others criticized it for "retarding vibrancy" and being "too formulaic." I don't know all the history of this issue (please fill me in!) I did find this summary of the conflict over a Cosi last year.
Most of the workshop focused on a series of exercises where people answered certain questions. For example, "Retail and related uses should acommplish the following goals to help our city: they should..." Responses included:
- foster interactivity on the streets
- generate sales tax
- meet residents' daily needs for goods and services
- serve visitors and workers
- help create a whole community
- encourage pedestrian traffic and 'serendipitous' moments around the city
- not negatively affect residential apartments
- boost employment
- encourage balance in the retail mix
- exploit buildings in neighborhoods that were built for commercial purposes
- remove the necessity of driving to accomplish everyday tasks
- create entrepreneurship opportunities for existing neighborhood residents
- retain existing residents
- a dentist's office
- a gas station
- check cashing
- blocked-up windows that don't let people see into the store
- have retail off an atrium instead of facing the street
- have too little pedestrian access to retail frontage
- don't maintain a fair proportion of green space
Finally, the group briefly discussed ceiling heights. National retailers now want 14 foot ceilings in their spaces, but few existing DC buildings don't have that height. In new developments, with the height limits, if a developer builds a 14 foot first story, then they have to sacrifice a story higher up in the building to stay under the limit. Business groups have proposed allowing a few extra feet of height on buildings in retail corridors that put in 14 foot ground floors.
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