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Suburban supermarket and strip mall dropped in Congress Heights

Ward 8, Washington's southernmost and poorest ward, had not a single supermarket from 1998 until December 2007, when a new Giant opened in Congress Heights. Unfortunately, that Giant looks like it came straight from Atlanta, with seas of parking in front that are never full.

Human beings not required.

Developers J.D. Smith and architects Cooper Carry look like they phoned this one in—perhaps from Cooper Carry's office in Atlanta, just the way Christopher Leinberger says. It's great that a supermarket has reached this needy area, but the tragedy is that as the neighborhood adds more housing and retail, this parking lot will retard the development of a walkable streetscape until it's economically feasible to redevelop the Giant or replace the parking lot with an underground garage below a new building. From East of the River:

Developers of the site say that they designed it to fit in with the existing infrastructure in an area of D.C. that does have a more 'suburban' feel to it, partly because the existing commercial and residential areas are less dense, more spread out.

Matt Ritz, project manager at William C. Smith & Co., the real estate firm that spearheaded the Giant project, adds, "If you put too much density, you could compromise the existing infrastructure. Mississippi Avenue is two-lane road; Alabama is a four-lane road. Too much density could create traffic problems."

Ritz needs to go back to developer school. Connecticut Avenue is a four-lane road, too. Density only creates traffic when everyone drives. The residents in this video talk about taking the bus. And did Ritz notice the Metro station less than half a mile away? As for the existing "suburban" feel, changing that has to begin somewhere.

Fortunately, if the draft parking regulations are adopted, future Giants will have to put their parking in back. Assuming, that is, civic leaders don't grant an exception in an attempt to draw any development here, no matter what it's long-term cost.

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. 


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