Dear PoPville – Encouraging Local Businesses to Improve Appearance?

Dear PoPville,

What can a neighbor do to persuade a business owner to give their facade a face lift? The owner of CC’s is a very nice hard working man. We’ve often spoken about positive changes in the neighborhood and over the last six years or so he’s admitted to changing his inventory considerably with more wines, diverse beers and varied liquors. He does not, however, have any intention or see any benefit in improving the aesthetics of his building.

If it’s for free though, he’s all about it- he loved the new brick block sidewalks when they came in. I know that most of the rest of that block is just a casserole of Horses Ass Awards but I really do think CC’s would be the best first step. Ironically the DCCH is just a few doors up but I’m not sure how much help they are.

Any way that the City would lend a hand to guide development and renovation like the have on other streets (Park Rd for example).

Any suggestions?

Do ANC’s provide grant money for this sorta thing?

47 Comment

  • mtpgal

    “A casserole of Horses Ass Awards.” Hee hee

  • Suggestions? Sure. A fifth of Makers. The sign won’t look so bad after that.

  • Never buy a house so close to a liquor store. They are impossible to remove. So deal with it.

  • I don’t want my tax money going to help some business. It’s a business. The owner can use his own profits to fix up the place. If he/she does not make a profit because the place looks bad, then he/she should close it down.

  • I live a block away from here and see nothing wrong with the way this place looks. It’s a liquor store. What do you want it to look like?

  • and the worse the upkeep usually results in more litter and more folks “hanging out” by it. Unfortunately there is nothing he or anyone is required to do that I know of

  • There were supposed to be some community development funds as part of the DCUSA package, but no idea whatever became of those. Furthermore, I doubt you’d see any such funds put into play for a liquor store to yuppify. Just feels like something that would draw vocal opposition.

    But having looked at CC’s at the end of my block for the better part of a decade, I wholeheartedly agree that an exterior facelift to its facade would do wonders for the intersection.

  • I’m pretty sure I don’t care what a corner liquor store on the backside of the 14th St revitalization looks like, certainly not enough to see my tax dollars spent on sprucing it up. Schools or liquor stores? I think there may be greater need elsewhere.

    If you’re really concerned about increasing your property values, pass the hat and offer to replace that “LIQUOR” sign with a “Fine Spirits” marquee. That’s most of the way to de-hoodified right there.

  • sunsquashed

    Meh, it could look a lot worse. At least the liquor store is in a cool old building that can be made to look better. Nothing will ever improve the look of the DCUSA complex. The sidewalk in front of CC’s isn’t crowded with rude jackasses like DCUSA either. If you want to talk about ugly, what about the horrid empty Bacon Funeral Home building another block North?

  • I know where you’re coming from. There are several liquor marts in my ‘hood that look like hell. On one hand, I’d like to volunteer to help spruce them up a bit so they don’t blight their respective areas. On the other hand, I don’t want to contribute to their positive bottom line in any way cause I’d like to see them replaced with something else.

    I know some civic associations have funds to help businesses with improvements. Also, the North Capitol Main Street group does, too, although I don’t know how much… and it certainly wouldn’t help you. I’m just saying these things exist.

    My hope is that the ‘hood will change demographically enough to drive some of these places out of business.

    Let the angry goddess of capitalism take her toll.

    • A business is being run to the letter of the law, and is making a living for its owner and any employees.

      And you hope gentrification closes it down, because you don’t like how it looks?

  • A nice coat of paint would do wonders. Not that I’m complaining. I know there are a lot of liquor stores up in that part of town, but CC’s is the only one with decent stock.

  • Unless you are paying for it – why would you try to convince them? It is their business and their choice how to spend their money. This question just seems ridiculous.

  • “He does not, however, have any intention or see any benefit in improving the aesthetics of his building. If it’s for free, though, he’s all about it…”

    1. If the business owner doesn’t see any benefit to improving his property, then why is is this even a question?

    2. Who wouldn’t allow a free renovation? The problem is with the word “free.” It’s his business, so he can pay to fix it up if he wants to.

  • The owner, Kim, is an exceedingly nice guy. I think the best thing he could do (and would require little money) is to take down the grates on the windows and stop using the riot gates.

    Further down the street, the only building still using the riot gates is the one that houses Subway, PNC Bank and a pharmacy. Really, Subway? Are you worried about rioters breaking into the shop and looting for bread?

    The riot doors do more harm than good at this point, as they make the neighborhood appear unwelcome and unsafe. If Di’Vines doesn’t need a riot gate, why does Subway or CC’s? Our neighborhood has moved beyond the need for these. Stop using them already.

    • It sounds like you are a recent transplant to Columbia Heights, because if you weren’t, you might realize that someone who has operated a liquor store on that street for years has a very good reason to be reluctant about taking down the grates protecting his store.

      Not to mention the fact that Columbia Heights may be getting gentrified, but it still has a long way to go before it is Friendship Heights. It’s a fact that there is still a ton of crime in that area. Are you going to pay to restock his store if it gets broken into, or pay the increased insurance rates for having less protection in a high crime area? No? Then you get no say in whether or not he keeps his grates up.

      • Absolutely. CC’s has been there a long time, well before all the new stuff. Experience is life’s best teacher, and just for the sake of making the new folks happier about aesthetics, as a shopkeep who’s probably seen the worst of what the area has to offer, I would be very reluctant to take down the protections that have stood between me and huge money loss and/or bodily harm for all those years.

  • I find most answers here very strange to what seems like a reasonable observation and question to me.

    Clearly there are not stakeholders in the neighborhood complaining or you just don’t care… both of which nullify your “meh” responses.

    “Any way that the City would lend a hand to guide development…” This open ended statement/question doesn’t suggest using taxes to me.

    I am ok with the city using my tax money to “lend a hand and guide development.”

    I am not ok with us paying for it outright.

  • I definitely get the whole ‘tax dollars for schools versus liquor store renovations’ but our city budgets already have their line items drawn out so, respectfully, I assure you that aid to a small business will not result in less equipment in the science lab for FY2013. Whether you have moral issues that it’s a liquor store, that’s another story.

    Not to say even that it HAD to be funded by the city, I feel like there’s a handful of nonprofits that help with this sort of thing.

    North Columbia Heights is getting lots more development these days with Le Caprice, Coffee Cafe and Z burger (construction has resumed on all projects as of yesterday) and there’s plenty of foot traffic.

    I just imagine that more businesses would consider investing in a property if the entire block didn’t look like 1967 Detroit. That strip through and past Allegro/The Getaway has lots of potential and it would be a shame to see it go the wrong way.

    Maybe a fresh coat of paint and a “Fine Spirits” sign would do the trick.

    • Let’s run this post through the bullshit filter and see what the results are…

      “I want my townhome to increase in value more quickly and more food options within walking distance.”

      Okay, that makes more sense.

  • I don’t know if the owner’s reading this thread, but I’d be a lot more likely to shop there if it looked nicer. I know it doesn’t really matter, but I don’t like shopping at liquor stores that looks like a Horses Ass finalist.

    • Forget appearances, I’d shop there if it wan’t closed at 7:45!!!! I needed some whiskey tonight, and when I went over there it was closed!

      But as far as appearances go, I’ll admit I was afraid to go in there for a while. But once I went in the first time, I realized it was a great spot.

  • pablo .raw

    I lived in that block in Monroe St. like 8 years ago, and I believe he painted the place in those colors around that time. I believe that asking him to paint his facade gives him the right to go to your house and ask you to do the same thing. He could then go to your house and ask you to change your facade according to his taste (dark gray and red/purple around your windows). Or not?

  • Waaahhh, CC’s is tight. Nice owner, what I want to buy and less than a block from my house. Irish whiskey is always on sale too.

  • I could see there being some sort of return on this thing from the public’s perspective if Columbia Heights were still a struggling area. Grants to support storefront fix-up could help bring people in and spur revitalization. But at this point I think that kind of thing is needed a lot more in other neighborhoods than it is in Columbia Heights.

  • PaschTag

    I just heard about this site. Not exactly what you’re looking for but certainly better than using taxpayer money.

  • I was at a meeting in Ward 5 and Harry Thomas told a business owner that they should come talk to him about a program to improve the facades of businesses on 12th st NE. (Now I am unaware if there is actually any money in the program or if Thomas had stolen it all). You might want to talk to your council member.

  • I have heard of neighborhood business associations offering grants to improve the facade of businesses. This was recently done in a small strip center on Northern Georgia Ave and was done for many of the businesses along 14th St in Northern Columbia Heights a few years back.

  • The city does have money for facade improvements, but you can’t use it for a liquor store.

  • A facelift would probably help him rake in even more money. I recall the package store at Mt. P St and Irving did a nice job a couple of years ago redoing their facade; can’t help but assume that it makes the place more inviting to people. I know it does for me.

    • saf

      I used to go there, but won’t anymore – the new owner was quite the jerk to me the other day. The old guys were always nicer.

  • If I need gin I need gin. Not looking at decor. Nearest port in a storm.

    But if I need Jamesons for a weekend camping trip, Baileys for Christmas, good gin for company – I’m probably not going to the icky store. Icky store owners should realize that and shape up.

    I was appalled at my tax money going to renovations on Park Rd. and would be more appalled at this.

  • ANCs cannot provide grant money for this, it sounds like Great Streets might what you’re thinking of, but it’s not available in that area.

    The Great Streets Initiative is a multi-year, multiple-agency effort to transform nine under-invested corridors into thriving and inviting neighborhood centers using public actions and tools as needed to leverage private investment. The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) is partnering with the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Office of Planning (OP) to manage the program. More than $200 million is being invested in new mixed use development projects, storefront improvements, transportation, streetscape, and transit improvements along these corridors. In late January 2008, the District made available $95 million in targeted Tax Increment Financing for neighborhood economic development projects which include over 10,000 square feet of quality local and national retail.

  • I think ANCs and neighborhood civic/citizens groups can put pressure on places that sell alcohol when they are renewing their liquor licenses by demanding they spruce up the exterior, add no loitering signs and improve outside lighting. It will at least take the edge off the eye sore.

  • CC’s is awesome! I live right by there and I really don’t care that the outside isn’t all gussied up. What matters is that they always have a great beer selection, and generally have whatever liquor I’m looking for. I’d rather it look the way it does now and keep prices the same, than have a better appearance and start charging off the wall like D’vines. Anyone who thinks the owner should remove the bars or gate over the door is being selfish… It’s not about what makes the street look nicer, it should be about considering the safety of the store and the owner and what is best for them. Not worth it to take those safety measures down just to get a few more white customers in each day.

  • Seems to me that Cooper hardware got a facelift & made their hours nonexistant afterwards. I’d rather Keep CCs in operation.

  • Maybe those “Occupied” folks in McPherson Square could volunteer some time to help small businesses in the area spurce up their businesses, instead of doing nothing but campout and yell. (i.e. take real action) I am sure there are ome creative, design folks there that could lend some advice or a hand. Just a few small improvement could really make things better AND improve business! People need to stop looking at buildings as a cost drain, and understand their potential as revenue generators.

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