What’s it Gonna Take for Lower Georgia Ave to Get Some Love?

I’m gonna oversimplify this but in my mind U Street/14th Street, NW, Georgia Ave, NW and H St, NE were commercially decimated by the 1968 riots. U Street/14th Street, NW has had an amazing renaissance. H St, NE is slowly on it’s way to an amazing renaissance. Georgia Ave, especially lower Georgia Ave is lagging very far behind. [ DC Mud recently highlighted some of the avenue’s woes.] So I have a couple of questions – is it gonna take the installation of street cars for lower Georgia Ave to become an attractive investment? Is lower Georgia Ave not gonna be touched by investors until H St, NE gets saturated and/or becomes too expensive?

My mind is rambling so bear with me. I walked around H St, NE over the weekend and during the day, to me, it felt absolutely deserted (H St itself not the surrounding neighborhoods). I suspect that feeling/reality may change when some of the street rail construction is cleaned up. So an unrelated question is – do you think H St, NE will ever have some daytime attractions or do you think it will remain a nighttime only destination?

Ed. Note: I think the new H St, NE signs in the photo above look fantastic.

62 Comment

  • What specifically qualifies as “lower Georgia Ave”?

  • The sign is great! Who does the plasma cutting around here anyway, or does one need to go to Baltimore to get such crafts made?

    Perhaps certain DC neighborhoods would do better if there wasn’t such a tone of semi-sanctioned exposure to on-going useless violence in the community?

  • Daytime H street is coming. Difference between 3-4 years ago and today with my routine visit to Sova Coffee shows an incredibly growing weekday traffic. Try standing in line at Taylor Gourmet for a sandwich on a Wednesday at 2.00 and you will get a sense of what is likely coming to the strip.

  • City investment / focus plus investment from Howard U. It’s as simple as that. There is NO reason for Georgia Ave. to be lagging behind H Street NE. Georgia Ave. is more proximate to metro rail and to the heart of downtown, has an extensive bus network, Howard, and is already close to areas with a fair amount of disposable income (parts of Petworth, Columbia Heights, Shaw). The Georgia Ave. master plan is WAY behind schedule; why, I’m not exactly sure, I’ve heard coordination with Howard, but at this point, waiting any more is silly. Georgia Ave. needs infrastructure investment now, and badly. If the avenue becomes more attractive, pedestrian friendly, better policed, feels safer and better lit, if store fronts are spruced up and the city incentivizes landlords of vacant spaces to sell / rent, and so on, Georgia Ave. can be fantastic in a few short years. It is simply crazy, in particular, how slow the pace of development on the prime properties near the metro is. But I am not really sure why the NUMEROUS smaller vacant storefronts are not being seized upon the way they are in H Street. Are the rents far higher? Landlords holding out? I just don’t get it. Just a FEW more places opening up would create so much momentum, the way H Street has snowballed. But the city could really give it a jump start.

    I hope the pending Sherman Ave. reconstruction will help a bit as well. Right now walking from 11th to Georgia just has a depressing feel, very dramatic difference, and Sherman as a gateway is the first step in changing that.

    • I have to put a little blame on my alma mater for the lag in development. They own most of the buildings North of Florida on Georgia. I do like however like revitalization of the Dunbar and now the Howard theaters. It’s a shame Dunbar’s only office space unlike the Atlas.

      • Howard has a new president so maybe that will push development activity. They need to put someone on staff to focus on development, if they do not already have somebody. As GA Ave improves off campus rentals will become more expensive (DC Rental market is already expensive) Howard needs to be forward thinking for the good of the students and the neighborhood.

        • I believe Howard is so insanely upside down financially that looking to them as a financial driver is not realistic. There’s been some tidbits on this over the years but I can’t say the sources off the top of my head. If I remember correctly, they borrowed heavily against existing land and screwed up the payback and now can’t do anything with the land or some such. Someone tell me I’m wrong or right if you know…

          And to hell with lower Joja, what about upper Joja!!?? Anything would be nice, even one of them fancy streetlights the downtowners get.

          • I have never heard this…source?
            Even if they borrowed against land unless they did it at the top of the market they should still be sitting pretty. The parking lot for residents of “the towers,” the old hotel, and the student parking lot on Sherman have to be worth many millions of dollars considering the location. I am using 25+ million the sale of the old Atlantic Plumbing Supply building as the ‘comp’ to estimate land values. They may have limitations due to the school’s charter.

            Howard needs good development partners.

  • Georgia Ave has proximity to many existing commercial areas that are very easy to get to. The neighborhoods around H St are largely desolate, commercially, without H ST. Joe E (developer) and Tommy Wells have done a lot to push the strip along. Lower Georgia Ave is just another commercial strip in Jim G’s Ward, and his bread gets buttered in Adam’s Morgan and U St already. I don’t know that Georgia Ave has a champion/advocate like Joe E. who’s willing to invest for the city.

    It’s a chicken and egg game between the retail guys and the city. No one wants to put down money without the other. I would say with all the development that’s gone on in Ward 1, that you guys have tapped out.

    • I’m not sure that Ward 1 has tapped out. I think that a lot of the development builds on each other. Looking at trends in the city – back when Dupont was shady (believe it or not there was a time like that), AdMo and CH were even worse. When Dupont became nice, it pushed the fringe to AdMo, which then became what it is. I think right now CH and U Street are nice developing area that still have a little bit of edge to them at parts. Give it a few years and I think that Georgia Ave will feel some of that. I don’t think people mind living in edgy neighborhoods as long as they are bordered by somewhere pretty nice and established. That is what I feel may be the problem for H Street – its kind of an isolated strip in nowheresville. However, I guess some may make the argument that Cap Hill isn’t too far away. I don’t make it down there much so I am not sure how accessible any of it is to anything else.

      • “That is what I feel may be the problem for H Street – its kind of an isolated strip in nowheresville.”

        You speak the truth when you say you don’t make it down there much, because this comment us just baffling in how wrong it is.

        • Fair enough. As I said, I don’t really know it down there. I guess what I should have said is that, when I am down there, it doesn’t seem as though there are a lot of really established and completely gentrified neighborhoods right around there. I know that Union Station is at the one end, but once you get far down H Street, there isn’t too much in any direction. I will be the first to admit that when U Street started developing, the same thing could probably be said, substituting Dupont/AdMo for Union Station. Anyway, I guess the gist of what I was trying to say is that it seems like Georgia Ave would have more of an ability to grow from the spill-over the surrounding neighborhoods that, to my knowledge, are a little more established and have more development going on right now than the surrounding neighborhoods of H Street. Again, not a local in that area of town, so feel free to educate me, but that is the impression I am under from my limited time spent down there.

          • you have no idea what you’re talking about. i considered buying in both petworth AND H st for their up-and-comingness, and a place in petworth worked out better timing-wise.

            however, with regards to the argument you’re making about “established” neighborhoods nearby – have you heard of a little area called capitol hill? like literally a few blocks south of H st NE? i’d call that pretty well established.

            as excited as i am about a lot of the development happening on georgia ave (slowly radiating from Park Place), the amount of development that’s already occurred and is still ongoing on H st blows it out of the water.

            stick to subjects you know about before making sweeping generalizations about a neighborhood in the city that you’ve visited once.

          • As someone who also doesn’t get to H Street that often, I’d have to agree with LT’s thought that H Street *does* seem pretty secluded, as opposed to AdMo/Dupont/U Street. H Street doesn’t seem to have the seamless connections to bustling surrounding areas that have built up in NW, but I think now that the H Street area is getting more attention, it’s only a matter of time until it’s similarly revitalized.

            Again, this is just my *perception* of H Street as a downtown neighborhood resident. Things could be totally different to the H Street neighborhood locals. No need to get snippy.

          • I was born and raised in dc, and I have to say H St is secluded. It is up and coming, but as someone that has been living in dc for their entire life I can attest to the fact that that area has been coming a long for a very very long time.

            What makes H St interesting is the fact that it really is not easily accessible to other established neighborhoods. One could argue that yes, it is near capitol hill, but I would even say thats debatable because Realtors keep pushing the boundaries of what is considered Capitol Hill further and further.

            I think the thing that hurts the Trinidad area (whcih H St is a part of even though many people neglect to mention that) is that it is not a very public transportation oriented area. When you look at U St, Columbia Heights, Adams Morgan and definitely Dupont, not only are they close to Metro stations, but the bus lines run ridiculously frequent, which makes it that much more appealing. However, I do think that depending on how this street car stuff turns out, that area will pop off. I too am amazed that Trinidad may pop off before lower ga ave. But lower Ga ave is kind of situated in an ackward location in terms of metro accessibility. To far from petworth metro, and too far from shaw metro. Like that middle child that doesnt get any attention. And I really dont care what anyone says, Metro accessibility drives development in dc.

    • I agree. A lot of the lagging on Georgia Avenue has to do with a lack of political will. And how about a TJs at the site of the Morgan Seafood/Morgan stink houes? Ah dreams…

    • And Jim G and Muriel Bowser together are an ultra-wet match when it comes to development on Georgia.

  • H Street could really use some retail to get the day traffic up a bit.

    How about a Trader Joe’s to replace Murray’s? **drool** A girl can dream, right?

  • H Street is already getting day time traffic and retail options. Metro Mutts and Dangerously Delicious Pies opened recently. A grocery store is coming soon. Taylor, Liberty Tree, Sticky Rice, and starting today Star and Shamrock do lunch time business. Not sure what GA Ave needs, but it does seem like lots of folks are focusing on H Street as the hot spot to develop now. The streetcar and hundreds of condo units that are coming over the next couple years is surely part of it.

  • Howard Town Center is scheduled for groundbreaking this fall. DDOT has been holding off on the Lower Georgia Great Streets plan until HTC is finalized. The streetcar is waiting for the Great Streets plan to be finalized.

    In other words, we’re all waiting on Howard. The good news is, they appear to finally be moving forward.

    • the streetcar is waiting for a lot of things.
      i wouldn’t count on it this decade.

      • It does appeared to be the unloved child of Phase 1, but I have high hopes that Howard Town Center and Park Morton will push things along.

  • I think there’s a huge opportunity for retail and restuarants to open up in Park View on Georgia Ave near Lamont! There are tons of empty commercial buildings (Hip Hop!, etc.) all 2 blocks from the continually up-and-coming 11 st. stretch…

  • H street was successful because of the large prostitute population in the area. This is how you bring more love.

    • speaking of that, have ya’ll noticed a HUGE drop in streetwalkers?

      and I NEVER see any in woodridge along rhode island avenue anymore.

      was there a big bust?

  • saf

    Have you looked at the Georgia Ave Task Force stuff? And do you know there’s a Heritage Trail coming, probably this fall?



    • does anyone think that the heritage trails really matter? there was one right in front of my place in adams morgan, and i never once saw anyone perusing the sign. i get the sense that they’re for historians and urban planners, but really don’t impact much of anything/anyone beyond that.

  • It’s almost like certain people in this city secretly want to preserve Georgia Avenue as a monument to poverty and the ghetto mentality, while everything else around them improves.

    • Like The Plan, but the opposite! Give me a break.

      • Open your eyes, baby, it’s not that hard to see what’s happening on Georgia Avenue. Or go on being naive about it and keep believing that everyone along lower Georgia is in it for bettering the community and not lining their own pockets.

    • “Better Blight than White” is a frequent motto in DC, like Stop Snitching…

  • You know I travel H Street all the time as i work up near RFK. I think H St is pretty yucky all around. I certainly wouldn’t play there in the evening or day. While there is some new stores/restaurants the rest of the commercial stuff is gross.

  • Some friends are involved in this new gallery /art space at 804 H Street NE


  • POP, do you ever contact Councilmen to ask them questions like this? I’d love to hear what Graham has to say. It’s an election year, so it’d be great to hear from the other candidates as well.

  • Is the new CVS on Georgia considered “lower Georgia Ave”? What about Qualia coffee house? I have heard rumors of several new additions to that area.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      The area you talk about near the Petworth metro is not lower Georgia Ave. We’ve discussed the developments coming to that area. I’m talking about from Otis south to Florida.

  • I think all the problems with underdevelopment, sketchiness, and a depressing feeling about Geo. Ave. will go away if we simply had a few years of strong real estate market.

  • By lower Georgia Avenue you mean Howard University. Howard University owns a ton of land up and down GA Ave. That right there is the problem. That skool is a joke–unless they decide to unload and or relocate you will little or no progress on Georgia Avenue. Spoken from the mouth of an expert.

    • “That skool is a joke” WOW…classy.

      So a school is responsible for the under development on GA Ave? Howard does not have a student body full silver spoons nor does it have a billon dollar endowment to work with. Post riots Howard was there when there was no development. Now they are supposed to do what, jump because the ‘expert’ says jump. Also Howard students (with others) were a large percentage of the early 90’s
      crowd supporting U Street (Bar Nun, Republic Gardens, 2K9)

      Howard has done more good than harm

  • H ST is still in transition and if you don’t stop, none of the storefronts is remarkable yet. Mostly what you see is the liquor stores, the wig shop, DTLR and other low rent businesses. However, there are lots new restaurants that have opened up in the past 2 years and not just bars; Liberty Tree is a very nice restaurant.

    Right now, H ST looks like the way Adam’s Morgan and U did 15 years ago. However, once the street is done being torn up, I forsee a significant pop in businesses. With the lack of parking due to the street being torn up, a lot of businesses are going to hold off on moving in if they can possibly help it. They’re already whining about tax abatement due to the time it’s taking to fix the street. It’s going to look rad when it’s completed.

  • Go here and tell them what you would like:

  • There is a Georgia Avenue Task Force for this area..

    The Task Force is working to shape future development on Georgia Avenue by forming a coalition with all of its constituents including residents, businesses, churches, senior citizens and youth, as well as community organizations. A series of community meetings and surveys are planned to get input from everyone, and committees have been set up to carry out specific functions.
    Much development has already started or been planned for Georgia Avenue. This includes the Park Place Apartments and CVS at New Hampshire Avenue; the Ward 1 Senior Citizen Wellness Center at Newton Place; the Park Morton Redevelopment Project; a new Bruce Monroe Elementary School at Columbia Road, the Howard University Technology Plaza (formerly Wonder Plaza) at Bryant Street; and, the Howard University Town Center at W Street.

    All Georgia Avenue stakeholders are invited to attend and to become a member of the Task Force. To join please contact Sylvia Robinson for more information at 202-462-2285 or [email protected] e.org. Handouts and minutes from prior meetings can be found at http://sites. google.com/ site/pleasantpla insdc/task- force or you can pick up a copy at the Emergence Community Arts Collective at 733 Euclid St. NW.

    The next Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force Meeting is this Wednesday April 28th from 7-9pm at the E. L. Haynes PCS at 3600 Georgia Avenue NW.

    Topics for discussion at this meeting will include:
    – Status of survey distribution
    – Updates on development & new permits issued
    – Updates on the Bruce Monroe Interim Design
    – Forming a team to review the proposed budget
    – Forming a Design Team for next phase of the Task Force
    – Summer Employment youth to assist with the development plan
    – Howard University student’s views on GA Ave development
    – Other Committee Reports/Announcements

  • PoP – another interesting area is even farther south of lower Georgia on 7th between about Rhode Island and O Street. That’s where the new CityMarket development, which I’ve never seen you write about, is slated to be built starting this fall. Also, there is a good strip of storefronts on that stretch to be developed as well. I think there is a lot of potential. Your thoughts?

  • I think what may be missing from this discussion is what is happening on 11th Street. Why open a nice bar/restaurant/coffee shop/etc. on Georgia when you can go over two blocks where things are a lot nicer? I’m not particularly familiar with H St, but my memory (from when we were looking at houses down there) is that there isn’t anything to compare to the strip of 11th between Kenyon and Monroe. All of the economic activity is concentrated on H as a result.

    (Or is that too far north to be considered parallel to lower Georgia?)

  • H Street is still a work in progress and not all of it is because of the work for the street cars. Now when that work gets done it should feel less like a work in progress but there are still going to be empty storefronts and business that one wonders how they stay open. What I find interesting is that H Street closer to Union Station feels more of a problem that 11th – 14th which is where a lot of the newer stuff has situation. I think the filling up of the empty lot with the Giant should help with that.

    I won’t speak for Georgia Ave. but H Street still feels a bit disconnected. On one end is Benning and other other the dead end of Union Station – both seem to book end the street and cut it off. I live on the Hill but too far to walk if I am going to be walking at night – and right now it seems very far away and still a bit of an effort.

  • All joking aside, lower Georgia is home to one of the best vegan/vegetarian restaurants in DC: Soul Vegeterian Cafe.

  • Howard is in the same position as Shiloh. The more white people come to the area, the less shady business practices that HU will be able to get away with. You can be a bad neighbor to your own. But the people moving in have as much sympathy for HU as they do for Metropolitan Baptist Church and Shiloh.

    So Howard is left to wait it out. They almost kept the community black by cutting a deal with Radio One, a black owned station.

    • “The more white people come to the area, the less shady business practices that HU will be able to get away with”

      Like what????? Why is Howard looking for sympathy or rather Why do YOU think Howard wants your sympathy?

      How is this even a white / black issue? The residents around GW do not like GW. The residents of the Village in NYC HATE NYU. Urban campuses often have friction with neighbors.

  • I think the best answer is the fact that H st is relatively isolated from other commercial areas.

    The hub of the H St NE corridor is about a 1.5 mile walk to the hub of the Eastern Market/Barracks Row commercial corridor.

    Plus, if you drew a one mile radius circle around the 1200 block of H St NE, you wouldn’t capture even a fraction of any other commercial district, aside from Union Station.

    If you tried to draw the same one mile radius circle around the intersection of Columbia Rd and Georgia Ave, you’d circle U St, Columbia Heights (incl 16th, 14th, 11th sts), Mt Pleasant and the eastern edge of Adams Morgan.

    I think other commenters have got it right when they said there’s just not much of a point to try to invest in lower Georgia Ave when there are so many nicer, established commercial districts right nearby. Also, people who have money they want to invest in Ward 1 have already tied it up in other parts of the area.

    Before H St NE was developed, that area was just a complete void in terms of the businesses and services that are now being created in that area. Now they have a captive market going a mile in every direction.

    Perhaps as rents rise on U St, 14th st, 11th st, investors will see value in Georgia Ave, but I just don’t see it happening very soon. Sad because I live right off of Georgia Ave.

    • So basically, H St is kind of the “biggest show in town” in that part of the city whereas Georgia Ave is kind of the “ugly stepchild” of upper northwest, so it makes sense that Georgia Ave gets neglected in favor of other nearby commercial areas. The same phenomenon could not really happen on H St because it’s really the only option in that area (defined as a mile in every direction).

      I think that Georgia ave has a lot going for it though. There are lots of people moving there so they can be pretty close to 14th, 11th, U St without paying the high rents of those areas. Some day businesses will find they have a lot of potential customers living right near Georgia Ave and the rents are quite cheap. I think Georgia Ave has great potential, just not in the very near future.

      • Bingo!

        I don’t think H ST really needs to draw from the rest of the city to break even. The gravy is obviously in having a nice enough area to draw across the city, but the fact that there is nothing else East of N. Capitol and from Trinidad to Eastern Market means that they are the only game in town.

        The trolley is the game changer…if it works out and brings people from chinatown, then everyone with a business on H gets early retirement.

        • yet the bars on h street are always packed with bridge and tunnel types.

          • Well I think what I said explains why investors all consolidated their businesses on H St NE. As for why they are packed with people from all around the city, that’s just a testament to the quality of the businesses that have been opened. There’s just lots of really cool stuff there now and the whole area has kind of a fun vibe.

            Oh and I like the “only game in town” idiom better – haha thanks.

  • For all of that, it looks like Georgia might finally be turning the corner a little bit. Seems like a little new investment is starting to spread southward from the metro and the gentrifiers are spreading eastward from Columbia Heights. I imagine it will only be a matter of time before these two forces merge. When that happens, I think Georgia will probably change very quickly, at least as far down as Harvard or so.

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