Friday Question of the Day

Why are there so many empty storefronts around the Convention Center?  It seems like such prime property.  Plus it is so close to the now bustling Chinatown area.  I know there are a few spots on 9th St. but 7th St. seems fairly empty.  So, why a deadzone around the Convention Center?

10 Comment

  • phew….too many reasons, but let’s just start with two:

    1) there were incompetent people running the convention center’s retail plan.

    2) the shaw ANC sucks.

  • It is actually fairly simple — pretty much all of 7th Street (btwn L Street and NY Ave NW) is owned by Douglas Development. They are planning to build their largest project to date there which will have more than 1.5 million sf. Jemal’s project will include hundreds of apts, some office, a hotel, and a boatload of entertainment retail (including a movie theater, possibly a House of Blues, many restaurants and more. The plans are done (he is suppossed to present them to the MVSNA soon) — look for a late 2008 or early 2009 start. Also further north, the O Street Market/Giant (7th and O) will be redeveloped as massive high density housing/hotel/retail starting in late 2008; Kelsey Gardens (at 7th and P) will soon be redeveloped (w/ housing/retail) starting early 2009; and, finally, Broadcast Center (the new Radio One HQ (7th and S Streets NW) will be built (office/housing/retail — including the redevelopment of the Howard Theater — just off 7th) starting in a few months. So actually 7th is on the verge — as they say.

  • I used to live in that area. I concur with what IMGoph said. As I recall, there was a lot of back and forth between the Church that owns a lot of those empty buildings and the other people in the community who wanted to see things changed.

  • If I were looking to open a business, I would not consider the area around the convention center. There is little to no foot traffic outside the CC and not enough other businesses in the area to draw a customer base. Perhaps when the Marriott is ever built along with some of the other projects the momentum will be there. But I wouldn’t count on any of that happening during the current recession.

  • A friend of mine who lives in Shaw has been telling me about the insanely bad Shaw ANC (somehow the crazy dude was voted out but is somehow still controlling things?). And then Jemal had his own problems…

    Anyway, when development does come it sounds like it will be in a huge way. I think the recession can slow things down but won’t stop it. This is not like speculating on turning a farm in the exurbs into a shopping mall. Shaw is just awakending from being a retail dead zone surrounded by dense development and affluent neighborhoods just west — the demand for whatever is built there will be huge. I’ve been amazed at all the new restaurants going in between Chinatown, 14th Street and Columbia Heights – no matter when you go or how many new ones open they are always packed. Demand seems unlimited…

  • Speaking of new developments in that area, there is an intesting and detailed update on the old CC site here:

    Also, on the same site (which is excellent btw for keeping track of various developments in the city and area at large) on the 14th Nehemiah Center site development. Looks pretty good to me. Some commenters seem to be worried that part of the parking behind the building will be above ground.. to me that sounds like a relatively minor down side (depending on how its done of course).

  • While it may look bleak now, signs of life abound. Among the new entrants to the area in the past 2 years are be bar, Long View Gallery, several yoga places (Maruka at 9th and N and Shakti on 7th), Old Dominion Brewhouse, Tokyo Sushi, EuroMarket Cafe, Chatman’s D’vine Bakery and Cafe, and so on and so forth.

    I think the 9th Street side of the convention center will be unrecognizeable very soon. On the near radar, Corduroy Restaurant opens its new location between L and M next month. The Exchange at 9th and N — a Douglas Development mixed use development with apartments, offices, and ground floor retail — is almost complete. Speculation abounds about the restaurant and retail spaces (I’ve heard everything from Bistro du Coin to Starbucks). An architecture firm is finishing its new offices between M and N.

    Breaking ground next year will be the new 1000+ room Convention Center Hotel on 9th between Mass and L. Marriott is building 2 more hotels at 9th north of L, a Courtyard by Marriott and a Residence Inn, making use of the historic buildings and bringing more retail to 9th in the historic facades.

    7th Street will likely follow with all of the Douglas Development stuff mentioned above.

  • I just started working in a building next to the Convention Center and it is absolutely dead, despite the proximity to Metro Center, Vernon Square, Chinatown, etc. It probably doesn’t help that we have that huge parking lot/ movie truck base station separating us…

  • Those properties that Jemal didn’t buy are owned by folks who want ridiculous amounts for their vacant properties. Some that stuck around since the ’80s hoping for a turnaround feel that they should be repaid for their patience. With the real estate market starting to plateau, the smarter ones might start to realize that the time to sell was 2005. Now they’re stuck with no business, no cash, and a ridiculous tax assessment.

  • Tax assessments are totally fair in that area – based on recent (post-condo) transactions, it’s really what they are worth. But such folks should sell or do something. And no, Jemal, operating a parking lot does not count as doing something.

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