Chris Donatelli Resonds To Your Comments From Yesterday’s Profile

Donatelli wrote the following comment in the comments section but I thought I’d draw it out so it wouldn’t get lost in the mix. He writes:

“Dear Petworthians – Thanks for all the feedback and comments. First, I

26 Comment

  • Please no terrible chain stores. Look at the H Street NE corridor – it is being revitalized while retaining a uniqueness that attracts a diverse group of patrons.

  • How about asking Litteri’s or Catania’s Bakery to open a retail outlet there? They are both local and would benefit from a larger retail presence in the area.

  • Olssons Books?

  • olssons, olssons, olssons! small enough but well established in dc.

  • olssons would be perfect! great suggestion

  • love that chris guy 🙂 if only the developer for my condo bldg was as open.

  • Thanks, Chris, for taking the time to respond to reader comments and provide an update.

  • Thanks for the response, it means a lot that our opinions are least considered.

  • Definitely have to agree with the bookstore (Olsson’s would be great), bakery and butcher suggestions in the earlier post. Having grown up in Northern New Jersey/NYC I just can’t follow the DC hordes in believing that Giant/Safeway/etc. is THE place to buy all your baked and or butchered goods. Also, perhaps Cowgirl Creamery down on F Street might be interested in a second retail location. Petworth could use a nice cheesemonger.

  • “We want a variety of small/med sized places.” This makes me very very happy. However, “We should have our choice of which restaurants come in and which space they will occupy in the building. Pretty much every restauranteur in our current buildings (U St, CH) have expressed an interest in Petworth and others will likely surface.” This makes me fear a Cheesecake Factory monstrosity like the one in Clarendon, or the Ruby Tuesday’s in Columbia Heights. blah!

  • When will the construction be finished?

  • I think a lot will depend on not giving in to the temptation to lease some of the units quickly to low-end mass-market retailers like Radio Shack. There has been alot of discussion on this site and Columbia Heights News about the 14th Street development, and the desire that the developer fill the vacant spaces over there with the same type of bookstores, coffee shops, even REI, that are in the wishlists above, but I can’t see it happening because of the businesses already in place. It is hard enough to make money off a small bookstore or a non-chain restaurant, or a bakery, and I don’t think anyone in their right mind would put one of those businesses in a strip already featuring low-end strip mall brands like Radio Shack, Lane Bryant, Payless Shoe Source, Mattress Discounters, and Vitamin Shoppe? I have no objection to those stores goin in on 14th Street– in fact I am pleased people will no longer have to trek to the suburbs to go to these stores. But I do think that if this type of store goes in the new development, the businesses we all want on Georgia Avenue will stay away.

  • I heard way back the Ann Cashion of Cashion’s Eat Place was going to open a butcher shop and Taqueria on 11st NW near Columbia Heights Coffee. I think that there were problems with the developer and the whole project fell through. Meanwhile, she opened Taqueria Nationale on North Capitol St near Union Station (it’s terrific). I wonder if she would still be interested in a combo like that in NW. Maybe not a taqueria because I think there are already businesses doing that well in NW, but some other kind of casual restaurant.

  • Also – about garden shops. Yes, they get competed by big box stores in the burbs, but there aren’t any chain stores in DC and the local stores do really well — Garden District, Johnson’s , Ginkgo Gardens. I’m especially a fan of Ginkgo Gardens & had heard they were thinking of a second location. Main issue there is having enough room for a business with indoor and outdoor space. So a developer would probably have to plan ahead with a garden business in mind to make this work. hint hint!!

  • Thanks for the update, Chris. It’s great to see a developer such as yourself interacting with the community and soliciting feedback on future developments. A lot of the time, that “touch” seems lost in the hustle to get the next big development up and running.

    BTW, say hello to Paul Alpuche the next time you see him. I worked with Paul for several years up at Lerch Early in Bethesda.

  • Demand drives supply. Do we honestly believe there would enough of a customer base for a bookstore in Petworth (when, as Chris noted, they struggling anywhere in DC, heck the country), or for a dedicated cheese store?

    Nita, Anonymous, in Donatelli’s previous developments there have been actually a fairly good line up of locally run restaurants. So I wouldn’t be as pessimistic from the get go. As far as DC USA goes, its also not given that some more diverse retail can still come in. Ellwood Thompson for example.

  • Chipotle!

  • I wish there was a demand for a real bakery that solkd bread not just cookies and cake. On a recent trip to Germany I marveled at how Germanys buy thier daily bread from bakeries. Just wishin…I know it is a huge pipe dream!

  • hahaha I didn’t even think of chipotle but wow… yum that would be good

  • Chipotle.. nah, there are better (real) Mexican alternatives in the area. A good pasta place (yeah, right, like that’s going to happen), you know, where the pasta is not floating in a huge pool of sauce, would be fantastic, but not sure if the area would support it.

  • For all people who complain about chains, if you want an independently-owned store, open one. Get a group together and open one. Otherwise, stop complaining.

  • G- POlitics and Prose isn’t struggling…. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a bookstore East of Rock Creek Park since my family moved here back in ’59….Says a lot about DC-but I think said bookstore would work.

  • California Tortilla! Way better than bland Chipotle.

  • Reuben, did you forget about the bookstore inside Busboys and Poets? I know it does not have a general selection; but it is a bookstore (which support teachers like myself).

    However, I’m all for a bookstore that stocks general selections. I appreciate the developer taking the residents’ interests into consideration.

  • Amel-I am sorry. I did forget the bookstore inside busboys.. I hope that store is successful. The bookstore area seems to mainly serve as an area for folks seeking tables. It’s a good store. I am glad someone uses it….

  • Wanted to share this letter from a couple of local business owners in case you haven’t had a chance to read it:

    A ‘Renaissance,’ But at What Cost?
    Sunday, March 16, 2008; Page B08

    DC USA has been hailed as a “renaissance project” for Columbia
    Heights. The Post stated that the 500,000-square-foot retail center is
    “erasing the last vestiges of scars left by riots that ravaged the
    neighborhood 40 years ago” [front page, March 4]. True, the streets do
    look cleaner. More people are walking around. The visible scars are
    gone; they have been covered by brick and mortar. But one needs only
    to scratch the veneer beneath the neon lights to see that such a
    project can prove to be just another quick fix: the economic
    development equivalent of crack.

    The recipe is simple. Take a savvy developer, mix in seasoned
    politicians, leave out the locals, and add a lot of public funding and
    giveaways, and there you have it: an instant renaissance.

    After much haggling by local merchants and community leaders concerned
    about the impact of the project on local businesses, a mere 15,000
    square feet was allocated for locally owned enterprises. These
    entrepreneurs were not even at the table when the deal was cut. About
    $45 million in public money was awarded to DC USA. The 200 businesses
    along 14th Street NW between Kenyon and Shepherd streets, which make
    up about 300,000 square feet, were allocated a mere $2 million worth
    of facade work and other improvements — hardly enough to offset the
    subsidies received by DC USA. The message to independent and locally
    owned businesses is clear: Stay away.

    Year after year, independent and local businesses are finding it
    harder to compete with national chain stores. Washington’s local
    businesses have seen neighborhoods change dramatically in a very short
    time. Take Chinatown, for instance. With the exception of the
    lettering on some signs, there is nothing Chinese about it. In short
    order, the historically Latino Columbia Heights neighborhood will meld
    into another “Any City, USA.” This homogenization of neighborhoods and
    whole cities is detrimental to the creativity and preservation of
    local flavor.

    A recent survey conducted by the Independent Business Forum, a trade
    association representing independently owned businesses, showed that
    82 percent of consumers value local and independently owned businesses
    and, given a choice, will choose local over chain stores. Just take a
    look at any top 10 list of favorite places to eat or shop. How often
    do you see a chain store on that list? Not often.

    Many studies have shown that independently owned local businesses are
    a boon for the local economy — they are connected to the local
    community not just by the real estate that they own or lease but also
    because their owners live and do business there. They hire local
    architects, local lawyers, local accountants, and local support staff
    and give back to their community in much larger numbers because they
    are directly accountable to it. Each dollar spent in a locally owned
    business circulates between five and 15 times; that means you are
    creating a $5 to $15 value for the community. In contrast, 80 percent
    of each dollar spent in chain stores leaves the city.

    Small businesses are not asking for special favors, just a level
    playing field. A free market can thrive when it is truly free and
    gives every participant an equal and fair shot at success.

    — Andy Shallal, Washington
    — Kim Weeks, Washington

    Andy Shallal is chair of Think Local First and owner of Busboys and
    Poets. Kim Weeks is co-chair of Think Local First and owner of
    Boundless Yoga.

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