Park Road Facade Improvement Project Looking Awesome

Holy cow, the Park Road Facade improvement project west of 14th St, NW is looking awesome. I remember looking at Los Hermanos restaurant back in Oct. ’09 and you could hardly tell there was a restaurant there. It’s already looking so much better:

And you can see the space (to the right in the photo below) where Pho 14 is going to expand into is also looking really good:

45 Comment

  • So…just to be clear. The city took 700K of District Taxpayers money and gave it to 13 PRIVATE property owners (54K a piece) to make facade improvements to their PRIVATE property?

    What do I think? I think how could anyone possibly be surprised that DC ran 500 million budget deficits the past two fiscal years and is slated to run a 600 million dollar one this year.

    These are private businesses located in private commercial property. Not only did the DC taxpayer give the the businesses free upgrades and improvements, but gave the property owners a much more valuable property with absolutely no strings attached. The property owners haven’t put 1 dollar into those properties in decades and I guarantee you if they keep them (and not flip them for a large profit thanks to the free city renovations), that they won’t maintain them and they will look like 3rd world stores again in another decade.

    Beyond ridiculous.

    • Yup.. I agree..

      I also agree that the District will benefit from the higher revenues in taxes, but there should have been some pay-back program where the business owners pay back the public funds they used over a certain period of time and that they cannot sell or lease their property, so they dont just cash out and run off..

  • Amazing what a difference a face lift makes to the street. Park Road is really looking great.

    As to the city giving these buildings some funds to give their facades a much needed facelift, it pales in comparison to the money they gave big corporations like Target, Best Buy, National Ball Park, Spy Musuem, etc. And like those projects it will also benefit and help improve the entire neighborhood. The money being used is also the city following through on its commitment to give some assistance to the small businesses who I’m sure saw their livelihoods threatened by the arrival of publicly assisted DC USA.

    Can’t wait to see the finished project!!

    • “t pales in comparison to the money they gave big corporations like Target, Best Buy, National Ball Park, Spy Musuem, etc”


      Seriously, those of you complaining about $700,000 to make this streetscape look better (which in turn will drive more traffic to these businesses AND make this block safer) need to look at the tax breaks we’ve given huge corporations to locate here. Wal-Mart anyone?!

      This is a positive investment for the city, regardless of whether we “make the money back” or not.

    • yeah i agree – i want the city to invest more in communities and local businesses!

  • Yes, I agree that this was an excellent investment. Just like the city’s broader-based, but less intensive, program to improve the signage on stores on upper 14th is a great investment. Not only does this help put these stores on equal footing, as noted, with the effectively subsidized stores in DCUSA, it also is compensation for the years and years of massive construction they have had to put up with, which surely harmed their businesses. And it just dramatically enhances the quality of the streetscape, generally. I see this as a win-win economic investment that will help businesses survive, hopefully thrive, in this corridor, increasing their long-term viability (and tax revenue to boot).

    • What can you tell me about the upper 14th st. signage program?

      I’d agree that simple improvemenst to signage can work wonders for the curb appeal of those little neighborhood commercial strips.

      I’m intrigued about how that worked – was it a tax credit or interest free loan for capital improvements?

      Links to details?


  • How can a bunch of bodegas be threatened by DCUSA? They don’t sell the same thing, and all DCUSA did was create 50 times more foot traffic for these run down places than they had before. If anything, they should be thankful DCUSA is there.

    Let look at the difference subsidizing long existing, but struggling businesses that haven’t fostered any additional development and have been a drain on the public teet (these stores), versus domething like DCUSA.

    DCUSA is 580K sq/ft including a 180K sq/ft Target and a 90K sq/ft Best Buy, among 14 other national retailers. The total city investment was 45 million dollars.

    These Park rd stores consist of 13 seperate properties totaling 21,000 sq/ft where the city just invested 700K.

    Target’s average revenue per sq/ft is $320, Best Buy is $900. That means that Target produces 58 million in city taxable revenue and the Best Buy produces 81 million per year.

    We haven’t even talked about the 14 other retailers filling the remaining 270K sq/ft, and these two stores alone produce 139 million dollars a year in taxable revenue.

    I would be enormously surprised if those 13 bodegas make more than 200K a year a piece, or 2.6 million in taxable revenue.

    Put another way, the city just dumped a bunch of money into long neglected PRIVATE businesses that don’t make the city any money and who only serves to benefit the individual PRIVATE property owners.

    DCUSA on the other hand was directly responsible for a 70k Giant Grocery Store, approximately 250 new condominimum units and just under 1,000 market rate Class A apartment units within a 3 block radius. That 43 million dollar investment into a empty city lot has conservatively produced more than a billion dollars in construction and somewhere in the neighborhood of 120-150 million a year in collected property and sales tax, collected from that 3 block radius, to the DC Treasury.

    That 700K just goes to improve the private properties of people who have neglected their property for decades and whose businesses give nothing back to the city taxpayer who just gifted them an expensive freebie.

    Comparing things like the ballpark and DCUSA is simply ridiculous. One money went to improve the greater good and benefit all DC Taxpayers enormously on a yearly basis. The other went to improve the private properties of 13 slumlords. Big difference.

    • we’ve made the money back on the baseball stadium? i didn’t know that.
      gotta link?

      • The city collects a special business tax to cover the bonds DC issued to pay for the stadium.

        The yearly bond costs are 17 million. DC collected 22 million last year in the business tax and another 3.5 million in rent on the stadium. So the stadium, now in the worst economy the city has ever seen is still making 7 million more a year for the city than it costs it.

        All told, the baseball tax has produced more than 129 million dollars in surplus for the city since it was enacted in 2005.

        So yes, things like DCUSA and the stadium benefit the ENTIRE city enormously while spending a fortune sprucing up slum lords private property only benefits the slum lords.

        • +1

          Thanks Joker. I’d vote for you.

          • did you read the article?
            “Evans, who helped engineer the ballpark deal, said the tax “was the biggest mistake that this government has made.”

          • I could never be elected to this towns Council. I can actually count to ten, balance a check book and judge simple pros and cons.

            Too bad that elminates my 12 year old nephew as well.

        • i’m not following. you’re saying that the stadium is legit because we raised taxes to cover the cost, and we still haven’t paid it off. what is the city actually making from the stadium? looks like it was just used as an excuse to raise taxes. the same could be said for a facade improvement plan. raises taxes, make more money.

          i’m not certain you read the article you linked to, but it doesn’t support your argument, unless you’re just playing a shell game with the revenue.

          • Are your purposely be disingenuous, or do you really not understand what you are saying and YOU didn’t actually read the article. I am guessing the latter.

            The tax applies only District businesses which take in more than 3 million a year in gross. There were just over 2,000 of them and they all agreed to this tax via the Chamber of Commerce. These little bodegas, or anything else that doesn’t gross 3 million a year aren’t being taxed for the stadium.

            And now your argument is changing. You didn’t ask if we had paid it off, you asked if we had made money and we had.

            DC took out a loan to pay for the stadium, and issued a voluntary tax to pay for it. The yearly payments on the loan are less than the money we make from it, hence DC taxpayers are making money on a yearly basis from the stadium and have made more than 135 million above and beyond its costs to date.

            Why did these 2000 businesses agree to be taxed a higher rate for the stadium? Because the benefit of the stadium, the development and revenue it fosters benefits the ENTIRE city, including them.

            I don’t remember Graham asking me if I would like to blow 700K on 13 run down PRIVATELY owned, long neglected bodegas that would only benefit the 13 PRIVATE property owners.

            By that rationale, I should be able to get that new surround porch on my house paid for by the city. Hell, I would venture that I pay more in income and property taxes than all 13 of those bodegas combined so it should be a no brainer right? Right? Yeah…thought so.

    • +1 – Of course it looks better – if a robber steals my wallet and buy himself a new coat he’s going to look better too. This was robbery. My money was taken from me without consultation or consent and given to a private property owner. It is outrageous and wrong.

  • This block already looks great now! I love it.

  • Mixture is a virtue.

    I am not threatened that these business owners are abusing the help and ripping us off hand over fist. In fact, I’m very, very glad they’re here.

    • So which business owners abusing our help and ripping us off DO threaten you?

      • To be honest, I really prefer the breaks for businesses like this rather than Wal-Mart.

        Wal-Mart: Always Low Wages

        So, yes, I know we’re paying for some of this. I don’t think ultimately Wal-Marts and such are sustainable for all the people that will be working there.

        And after the Wal-Mart comes and housing prices rise, I certainly do not want to read complaints about commuters such as the employees who will be living in Woodbridge as they can’t afford to live in the city.

        See the NPR piece today on the rising housing price anomaly in DC. We need to preserve a mixture here.

        • “Breaks” for small local businesses would be giving them low or no-interest LOANS to improve their private property.

        • what are the wages and benefits like at these bodegas?

          • Wages might not even be that high, but there’s a level of dignity that still exists for workers in small businesses.

            I consider it a break that the city helps improve the facade.

            I’m pretty sure whether the city offers them breaks or not, a corporation such as Wal-Mart will find a break, don’t you think?

          • Dignity isn’t worth jack at a job that doesn’t exist. Walmart creates jobs. I think you’re vastly overestimating the value of one low wage job vs. another. Also, you have to factor in the fact that as more people are employed (via Walmart or another corp that employs many), wages will tend to rise for low wage earners overall.

          • a “level of dignity”? this is seriously the argument?

            also a “lack of benefits” and “lack of opportunities for promotion.”

            I’m not saying wal-mart is a good thing, but taking money out of my bank account to buy Los Hermanos restaurant a new front window is f—ing ridiculous.

          • Dude, nobody calls them “bodegas” in DC anyway. But maybe you didn’t get the memo.

          • I live a block from Timor Bodega, so I think of the term bodega. Sorry to offend you.

        • what special tax breaks is wal-mart getting?

          • zero

            And agree with Eric and Tres, “level of dignity” on a non-existant job is a ridiculous metric.

            These bodegas pay less than Walmart does, and combined employ maybe 55-60 people. One of the proposed Walmart employes 4 or 5 times that and pays higher wages.

            “I don’t have a job but I’m edgy and I’m dignified because I refuse to get a job at Walmart and continue to suck the public teet.

            Gag me…

            Some folks really need to get their heads out of their rears.

        • I just really disagree with you guys.

          I really want to preserve small businesses and this is one of the ways to encourage a commercial area and beautify the city, in any case…

          Sorry you gagged.

  • The transformation of this area is nothing short of amazing. Had I been asleep for the last ten years and woke up where these pictures were taken, I’d have a really hard time believing I was on Park Rd. in Columbia Heights.

    But I have to agree with those who have doubts that these business owners will take the initiative to keep these facades looking so nice. One of two things will happen: They’ll fall into disrepair pretty quickly, or the landlords will decide that these pretty new facades are too nice for the small-time tenants that are in there now, and force them out with rent increases in order to hold out for big-name tenants that will never come, leaving these storefronts empty for years.

  • I’m quite fine with tax money spent this way. In my mind it’s not a whole lot different than streetscape projects. A cost-share would have been nice but probably unrealistic.

    Meanwhile, this block needed fixing. It is still pretty junky but less than a decade ago gunfire was common along with knife fights, drunks, thugs, vomit on the street, garbage. Some of the buildings were the definition of slums. Raids were common.

    The city couldn’t afford to have that block stay that way after hundreds of millions of dollars of private and public investment went into Columbia Heights. To me, $700k is fine to help fix this blighted block.

  • It is completely different from public streetscape improvements. A private landlord can’t profit by selling the new sidewalk or lamp post. His general property value might go up and his income might increase from additional business – I have no problem with that.

    • An increase in profits by these restaurants = increase in city tax revenue.

      It also makes this block much prettier and I’m happy part of my taxes are used to make my neighborhood look prettier.

  • This is a tremendous improvement and I’m applauding it no matter how it happened. That block has been the tragic addendum to Columbia Heights’ progress and its betterment serves every business, consumer and resident in a 3-5 block radius.

    If my tax dollars helped pay for this, all I can say is HOO-RAY!!!!!! and wonder if the same can be done for the crappy-ass corner store on my street in Petworth.

  • Wait a minute! is this whole thing some sort of Banksy hoax?

  • I actually don’t like the aesthetics of the monotonous, brown-framed glass, cookie-cutter bump-outs, especially when they are tacked on the front of older, more graceful buildings. Looks cheap and cheesy and will not stand the test of time.

  • I happen to know one of the owners well and need to let you know that you are all mistaken in thinking that the property owners are a) not putting in any of their own money to this effort b) slumlords. Perhaps you can get your facts straight before making rude and inappropriate statements. In case you have overlooked it, like you, they are also tax payers. These properties were sold by the DC government well over 20+ years ago and were in worse condition then and people have indeed been affected by the big retailers new to the area. Clearly you fail to see the bigger picture, which is to maintain cultural diversity, and assisting the smaller businesses survive and thrive. Everyone should have an opportunity to improve and grow, or is it that only the big corporations get to do that? They will be paying more taxes, this is true, so it’s no free picnic for anyone.

    • Great to have an inside voice. We are eager to have the facts straights and get specific answers – so

      1. If the property owners sell tomorrow how long do they have to repay the $54,000.00 dollars in city-funded renovations to their private property?

      2. “They will be paying more taxes, this is true, so it’s no free picnic for anyone.” Great – So what is the increased tax rate they are paying, from their private business, to reimburse me – a tax-paying citizen for the money I have been forced to loan them?

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