Renovations Coming to Samuel Kelsey Apartments in Columbia Heights – Olive Garden Italian Restaurant Coming too?

3322 14th Street, NW

Lots of readers have been writing in asking about the Samuel Kelsey Apartments in Columbia Heights. Specifically folks are asking about the former Speedy Liquors and Casa Furniture spaces at the corner of 14th and Monroe St, NW. So first thing first here is what I know – the Samuel Kelsey Apartments are being fixed up by WinnDevelopment:

WinnDevelopment enjoys a 30-year history of successful development ventures, which are valued in excess of $1.5 billion. Properties developed range from garden-style apartment communities to medical office buildings to the Millennium Bostonian Hotel, an internationally recognized luxury hotel at Faneuil Hall in Boston.

A more recent focus for WinnDevelopment is the acquisition and turnaround of troubled properties using a combination of innovative financing, government subsidy mechanisms and improved management practices.

Their project page says:

For today’s seniors aged 62 and above, and the disabled. Samuel Kelsey consists of 150 apartment homes that are combined with12 commercial spaces including a pharmacy, beauty salon, bank, and much more. Also conveniently located within minutes of downtown D.C., are grocery stores and public transportation. The active Resident Association offers support in providing trips, wellness programs, and food assistance. Historical facts show this ideal community carries a superior rating recognized by the District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency.

Speaking with folks on the property they say the metal grates will be removed in addition to other facade improvements. I’m not sure to what extent, if any, the inside will be addressed.

Now to what more people have been asking about: What specifically is going on with the former Speedy Liquors and Casa Furniture retail spaces? At first I thought it was just people messing with me but now rumors are officially flying – folks are hearing that an Olive Garden Italian Restaurant will be taking over the space. And yes this is directly across the street from Ruby Tuesday. I have left a message with Olive Garden’s media relations (though I don’t know if they’d be able to confirm even if it is true) but their director is on vacation, I will update as soon as more info becomes available.

So, if it is an Olive Garden – do you think it will do well in that space?

Update from Olive Garden’s [Darden] Media Relations:

“Darden’s brands continue to grow, so our real estate teams are constantly looking for sites across the country. However, we don’t comment on any specific plans until a project has received the necessary approvals.”

123 Comment

  • an olive garden in Columbia Heights? oh helllll no.

  • How difficult-expensive would it be to add on another couple of stories? Seems like a real waste of prime space.

  • Eww Olive Garden… no freak’n thank you.

  • Please, not Olive Garden.

  • That place looks nothing like an apartment building. I had no idea.

    And as far as Olive Garden goes, who cares? We have a Ruby Tuesday’s and an IHOP, and they’re both thriving, so there is definitely a market for affordable, sit-down restaurants in the neighborhood.

  • Wait, no shot out to Cherkis? Dude was like a prophet!

  • This is the problem with the DCUSA area, only chains with proven models can afford the rents to move in there.

    • Yep. We tried to rent space in DCUSA, but as a local small business, they wouldn’t even talk to us. Wasted six months dicking around with them. The line about local, minority businesses being welcome is a lie.

  • ok, i hate olive garden as much as the next person. but man this really signals that CH has made it as a neighborhood. I am declaring this the summer of CH.

    • i agree as long as business are surviving and keeping foot traffic flowing it is a good thing for the neighborhood.

  • Just as I have never set foot in Ruby Tuesday, I will never set foot in Olive Garden.

    • The Rube rocks! Check it out sometime.

    • Agree with Kevin.

      If the Rube would simply change it’s name and some of the crappier chain-esque decor it would be the most popular restaurant in the neighborhood.

      • Indeed. Why do businesses name themselves after Tuesday? Ruby Tuesday? Tuesday Morning? Doesn’t Tuesday…like…suck?

        • I always assumed it had something to do with the Stones song. No idea why they chose that name for the restaurant.

      • yes! i say this all the time. and it is popular. just probably not with the world of this website. my fiancee (culinary institute of america graduate) thinks the salad bar is pretty solid and the beer for me is pretty good. i would go to ruby tuesday 1000 times before going back to the heights (mediocre food, expensive).

        • The Heights should be charging Ruby Tuesday prices. I would go there if they did.

          • yes. i’m happy to pay extra $ for something good, but the heights isn’t it. it’s fancier but not better than ruby tuesday’s.

        • I too love the Ruby Tuesday salad bar – the only thing I go there for, but I do go there specifically when I want a salad bar dinner.

          And I love the Olive garden soup/salad/breadsticks – very nice lunch. I don’t eat anythign else, but I do like that meal.

          Chains are what they are.

  • I’m going to be the lone voice saying I wouldn’t really mind an Olive Garden in the district. I would rather a smaller independent restaurant there, but Olive Garden is harmless. Well, except to real Italian food.

    • +1 – you are not the lone voice! I love wine bars, unique clothing boutiques and local shops as much as the next gal, but I also LOVE Olive Garden and I am not ashamed to admit it! Bring it on!! This is VERY exciting!

      to all the haters, you have to admit its WAY better than a liquor store, crappy furniture store, cell phone store or illegal brothel fronting as something else.

  • Now all we need is a red lobster to cement our status as the epicenter of bad DC restaurants. What would be great is if people would start buying the row houses along 14th street, actually putting money into them, and opening nice places. Unfortunately the trend is otherwise. And so help me god if someone builds another cinder block or exceptionally cheap looking brick building on that stretch I am just going to have to go to that carry-out place and drown my sorrows in some crack. ANC, where are you at on smart development of this area?

  • Olive Garden, sure, why not? Better than a liquor store and a cheap, ass furniture place. The block willlook nicer, brighter, and cleaner to an otherwise dingy, dark block. Its not my thing, but it can only help that specific area.

    • I agree. Olive Garden may not meet the snobby, high-brow tastes of some CH residents, but it is a helluva lot better than a liquor store.

      Folks complaining about a lack of local options – you’ve got Pho 14 and the Peruvian Chicken place on Park Rd, The Heights on 14th, and Acre 121 and Pete’s Apizza on Euclid.

      Sorry it offends your anti-suburban sensibilities, but a lot of people eat at chain restaurants, that’s why they are successful and make money.

  • Olive Garden? Sounds good to me!

  • I’m not a huge fan of chain restaurants, although I end up in one from time to time. But I think it’s ultimately a good thing that the District is attracting these places. CH is a natural fit, I guess, cause it has the space for them and a metro. Personally, I’d love for a Petsmart or Petco to come to some hood East of Dupont.

    CH feels denser and grittier to me, in a NY way, than much of the rest of the city, which makes it unique. I wouldn’t want to live there, cause I like the feel of a leafy and quiet neighborhood with our own downtown within the city (aka Bloomingdale), but I can see why others would dig the Heights.

  • Better than what was there, but not sure it is better than what is(n’t) there.

  • Fine by me. I mean, I think it’s awful, I can make better Italian food at home and I am hardly a chef, and I’m glad we have Maple, which actually makes good Italian food, in the neighborhood now. But that’s just my opinion, for whatever reason, plenty of people seem to like this place, and it’s better than a vacant space. And let’s not kid ourselves, with a few exceptions, this is what 14th Street near the metro is. Even the independant places largely mimic a chain approach / feel / quality (see, e.g., Lou’s), although with a few exceptions (like Pete’s). But, it’s more jobs for the neighborhood, provides more affordable food options, and replaces a vacant space and relatively-little-trafficked corner with something that will draw a lot of people, so to me, it’s still good news for Columbia Heights.

    Speaking of DCUSA, we seem to hear these stories again and again about how the commitment to local businesses is simply not there, and the results of what has gone into that space are the best proof. I wish someone would do a big expose someday on the myriad of ways DCCH and DCUSA manages to screw over the neighborhood: building a huge parking lot that is barely used and the city is on the hook for, building no real community space into the plan (the entry area could have easily accomodated something for the community), screwing up the Whole Foods deal due to the parking lot regulations, the fake committment to small business while DCUSA shows zero real interest, keeping thousands and thousands of square feet vacant for years because of no flexibility in the types of businesses they will deal with, it goes on and on.

    The latest I’ve hears is that Washington Sports Club has wanted to expand into the vacant (and will forever be vacant) adjoining space, and that expansion is BADLY needed, but DCUSA refused to rent it to them unless they renegotiate the lease on their main space. So basically, DCUSA just turns money away, leaves a space vacant, and leaves the Sports Club uber-cramped, screwing over people who use it. Incredibly frustrating that DCUSA has been hugely subsidized by the public yet seems to give ZERO back in return … I’d be happy to hear evidence to the contrary, but I haven’t as of yet.

    • Do you know who runs DCUSA? Is it a private corporation? Or government agency? Have a hard time picturing a corporation turning down opportunities to make more money. Also agree on the parking garage fiasco, which I understand was due to regulations mandating its inclusion.

      • DC USA is private. Regarding the garage, blame Target for that. They insisted that the city build them a garage as a condition of them signing with DC USA. No garage would have meant no Target which would have meant no DC USA which would have meant that the condos and apartments on 14th wouldn’t have been built which would have meant that CH would still be the crap hole it was in the 90s. The garage was an unfortunate, but necessary, evil that Target eventually discovered it didn’t need anyway.

        • Fair point on garage, but there should have been a creative way to make it work so that Whole Foods could have had its dedicated parking facility as well, rather than leaving that space vacant for years.

          If DCUSA was merely a typical private developer, I’d say, whatever they want to do is fine. But from what I understand, there were all sorts of enormous financial incentives they received, in return for certain promises, including set asides for locally / minority owned businesses. If it is true that DCUSA is basically hostile to any business which is not a huge chain, or sets requirements that effectively exclude any non-chain business, that seems to be a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the agreement they had with the city in which they received various financial concessions (maybe taxes, maybe land, can’t exactly recall)

          • I too was disappointed about Whole Foods, but that wasn’t even on the horizon when DC USA was built. The problem there was that because the garage was built with city funds, a portion of it couldn’t be set aside for a single business. I don’t know the details but that’s the gist. Whole Foods made the decision to bale simple because they couldn’t get dedicated parking which seems really silly given that there is an entire level sitting vacant.

            As for the small business-minority set-asides. I completely agree that if they are hostile to local, independent businesses (which seems to be the case), then there is a real problem.

    • This assessment isn’t correct. On the parking, it was target who said, no garage, no Target and it was that simple. Wrong logic, but it’s their decision to choose a new site. Whole Foods bailed out on their own, as did Ellwood; when 2 gourmet grocers don’t pull the trigger, it seems like they may have shared the same assessment, right or wrong, whether or not the owner wanted them. As for the small businesses, a few did start, if you include the IHOP Franchise as a LSDB, and the pollo chicken/ramen shop. I think Lou’s City bar originally wanted a slot, but they seem happy across the street. But, most independent start ups don’t have the credit to get a class a retail space, sorry. As for the benefits, there are a lot of jobs, tax revenues, and shopping conveniences, which are tangible benefits that you have to work hard to overlook.

  • bring on the endless salad, breadsticks, and soup!!! it’s a guilty pleasure, but i love the olive garden.

  • Reading some of the comments on this thread, I’m starting to believe we need to get over ourselves. Such hatred for a fairly inoffensive restaurant? Hardly seems necessary.

    I don’t personally enjoy the Olive Garden (although I grew up in my small town where it was the nicest restaurant around for miles.) some people really dig it. Columbia Heights has more residents than foodie 28 year olds who drink microbrews. I’d never eat at Olive Garden but a lot older folks in the community certainly would. Sorry if it isn’t a hip enough scene for you, but Columbia Heights is a pretty diverse neighborhood. It isn’t a playground for the young urban professionals. Check out all the local cool stuff happening on 11th and Park. Having one place in the neighborhood that you don’t personally enjoy isn’t worth all this consternation.

    • Thank the gods that we have folks like you. This hatred towards a particular restaurant is unbelievable. If you don’t like olive garden, then simply walk over to 11th n park. I am really starting to believe some folks just find every opportunity to complain about something. It really isn’t that deep!

    • Bridget, I wish I could reply to every obnoxious comment on this thread with your comment.

    • Thank you, Bridget. It’s absurd seing people get pretentious to the point of viewing dining at Olive Garden as some sort of ironic, guilty pleasure that has to be clarified beforehand.

  • I remember when folks in CH were happy when the 7-11 opened. It was something at a time when there was pretty much nothing. Those days are still fresh in my mind so it’s hard to turn my nose up at a legitimate business that will serve the neighborhood.

    Personally, I’m more of a Meridian Pint person but if people want this kind of restaurant then I’m OK with it. Recall that Fenty’s campaign for council member focused on opening a sit-down restaurant in his ward. That message rang true for a lot of us in CH and still does.

    • +1. Yep, 7-11 was a big f’n deal when it opened. I too prefer the restaurants on 11th, and I would like to see more independents on 14th. But, it’s good to have an empty storefront filled, and I have no doubt that lots of people in the neighborhood will eat there. Something for everyone. I don’t have to like or patronize every business in CH.

  • I for one cannot wait until The Garden comes to D.C.

  • I think an Olive Garden makes perfect sense for this section of Prince William County. It’s right next to a ruby tuesday, Giant, Best Buy, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Marshalls…

    Oh, this is in the middle of DC? Is this why the kids are so enamored with living in columbia heights?

    • Hahahaha. Best post of the day. Now when someone throws out the “Move to the suburbs!” line, you can direct them to Columbia Heights. The shark has been jumped.

    • Hah hah. I am no Cherkis but you raise a good point. I think I am going to have to become the rent is too damn high guy. But that really is the issue, isn’t it? That is why I am imploring a run on the smaller buildings along 14th with quality development.

    • Do we really kid ourselves in thinking that the driving force behind Columbia Heights is a bunch of “kids” (i.e. hipsters)? Let’s be honest, there are far more young professionals, young families, and folks who have lived here for decades than hipsters. Most people would prefer to have the uniqueness/independence of 11th street alongside the convenience of 14th. The majority of folks railing against the chain merchants are those that have the convenience of not needing/appreciating convenience. I for one enjoy that I can get a pair of socks at Marshalls, grab something random at Target, and then based on how my toddler is behaving choose if Meridian Pint or Ruby Tuesdays is more appropriate. It’s the best of both worlds and why it makes living in the city with kids far more doable.

    • Please. So a couple of restuarants and stores are the same. Walk around the neighborhood of Columbia Heights, then walk around Manassas, or Dale City, or Bristow, or Gainesville. Or Bull Run Battlefield, or Prince William Forest Park.

      Then get back to me with the long list of similarities to Columbia Heights.

  • Where’s thebear? I know it’s not your neighborhood specifically but I can’t help but laugh. Perhaps one is soon destined for your area, too. Heh

  • A decent furniture store would be a great addition to the neighborhood.

    • The furniture store around P street that lost its lease– Reincarnations, or something like that? I think they hinted that they would be looking for new space.

  • ledroittiger

    Typical DC bullshit with this chain store crap. Keep it in Chinatown or out in NOVA. How you gonna allow this and then keep rules about building heights? Why don’t we just turn the whole city into a mall?

    • Translation: “GRRRRRRR, I’m so mad that an Olive Garden has moved in there. I already told all of my hipster friends from Brooklyn about how edgy and gritty my neighborhood was, and now they’ll be laughing at me when they visit and we have unlimited soup salad and breadsticks at the Olive Garden for lunch.”

  • You don’t need Olive Garden to confirm it…I assure you that the space is across the street from the Ruby Tuesdays.

  • Why can’t Hard Times open a friggin restaurant in DC?!?! I wants me some veggie chili and I want it in my neighborhood!

  • +1 to Olive Garden. A big pile-o-salad will be a nice change once in a while.

    Something something local businesses are great. But, let’s admit that basically all the new bars are just expensive places buy PBR and IPAs on tap with some standard, repetitive “American” bar food. Sally’s, If they’re all basically interchangeable, isn’t that basically the same as a chain, anyway?

    While I’ve got my referee pants on, I’m throwing a BS flag on DC Brau. You are local so hooray and high fives. Now can you take all the money I spend on you every weekend and finally learn how to make something other than sweet, heavy pale ales before I start to smell like hops with diabetes?

    In short, I would occasionally substitute chain Italian and glass-jug wine for the local stuff, since they live on the same plane of mediocrity. And OG has unlimited Parmesan salad shooter madness. So take that.

    • Re DC Brau: +100000000. I get it, IPAs are trendy, and hoppy puns are all the rage. Guess what, the only reason they made it in the first place is because it would have spoiled otherwise on a trip halfway across the world. When you’re selling down the street you can have a little more variety.

      This town needs more Ommegang.

    • If you think DC Brau beers are hoppy, I’d stay away from most West Coast I.P.A.’s. The DC Brau beers I’ve had have been decent, but certainly not daunting overpowering when it comes to hoppiness.

    • If you think DC Brau beers are hoppy, you should stay away from most West Coast versions. The DC Brau beers I’ve had have been decent, but certainly not daunting when it comes to hoppiness.

  • Where do you guys think you live? Bethesda?

    I remember when the CVS opened and it was like yuppie nirvana.

    Let me break it down to you.

    Columbia Heights, despite being a gentrification wunderkind still has some of the lowest incomes in the city. There are thousands of low income / section 8 residences within a 5 X 5 block area and all the chain stores and banks have to hire private security or off duty cops to man the doors because to the locals, theft is just a normal way of life. Of course we haven’t mentioned the off the hook crime and theft in Columbia Heights.

    All I see on the blogs is “why doesn’t someone buy it and fix it up”, or “why doesn’t open a “insert yuppie preferred store here”?

    Columbia Heights was a pretty horrific ghetto not 7 years ago and depsite what you believe, “you” moving into the neighborhood hasn’t made it all better.

    Perspective folks…you don’t go from Juans Booze Bodega outfitted with bullet proof glass at the register and bars on the windows to opening a Manolo Blanik shoe store in 10 years. Hell, I don’t care how many billions are pumped into Columbia Heights, you don’t make that jump in 20.

    Be happy that someone is doing “something” to better the neighborhood because the status quo isn’t a better alternative.

    And hey, if you think you can do much better then have at it. No one is stopping any of you from doing better.

    • ledroittiger

      You have a point, but you NEVER then make the transition from a chain store mall to independently owned businesses. It just does not happen.

      • Great point. CoHi made a deal with the devil & the devil always gets paid.

      • What “independant” businesses are you referring to? The ones that were doing so well before in Columbia Heights?

        Pray tell which “independant businesses” you like that you would add to the neighborhood that already exist elsewhere?

        • Joker – I think you can point to 11th street. Meridian Pint, Room 11, the new Diner project, as the type of quality, non-chain development that people want to see. I count myself in that number anyway. Maybe that is inappropriate for large retail space but it is still an aspiration that is worth going after. There are so called independent and well financed restaurant groups in the city that could do well in this area. I am thinking the guys behind, Dixon and Marvin for example. The want is for these types of businesses and not the same places you could find driving down route 1 in Virginia or Maryland. I don’t think people are wrong to want that or should be ridiculed. It happened on U street, which, to quibble with your premise was also a getto and transformed in less than 5 years.

          • Diner, are we talking about the same guy who owns what? 4 other similar businesses in DC?

            Meridan Pint, again the same guy who owns 3 other places, so on and so forth.

            These places are neither “small”, nor “independant” as they have long lists of investors involved as well. Don’t be confused that just because it doesn’t have a “chain” name, doesn’t mean it isn’t a large local chain.

            Also, bars? Really, thats all you can come up with us using bars as examples? As somone already mentioned, all the bars the yup’s love to see open are just xerox copies of the last, a place to pay exhorbitant prices for beer and eat bar food that regardless of what you call it, is still regular bar food and isn’t exactly breaking new culinary ground with their nachos and burgers.

            I’ve never set foot in an Olive Garden, but off setting the “bar-ificiation” of Columbia Heights with anything else, especially if it is a stable, profitable business that brings in lots of foot traffic to a empty location is a win, not just for te neighborhood but for the DC tax base at large.

            If your idols at Marvin, Diner, or Meridan pint thought that space was a worthwhile investment, they would have made it.

          • Those places on 11th Street would have never opened if it were not for the development along 14th Street. They are the result of increased foot traffic and safety in CH. You can besmirch Target, Best Buy, Ruby Tuesdays, Marshalls, Starbucks, Chipotle, etc. but money speaks and the community is supporting these places with their wallets. Plenty of hipsters shop and eat at these places not just moms and old timers.

      • There are lots of independently owned stores in Columbia Heights right now.

    • Game, set, match.

      Thank you, sir, for dispatching all the nonsense about a completely benign chain restaurant investing in a neighborhood that’s still struggling to leave its ghetto past behind. Just like the Target and Ruby Tuesday, only good can come of an Olive Garden (even if you don’t like the corporate food, atmosphere, whathaveyou).

    • Well said, especially your challenge for those who want to complain to instead open their own local/sustainable/insert-trend-here restaurant.

      Food service is hard, hard work with long hours and very slim margins. I’d guess that anybody who moved to Columbia Heights within the last 5 years tried opening a restaurant they’d quickly figure out they’d need to live somewhere much cheaper to get by.

  • I’m not opposed, but I don’t think it will do well. No parking. I think they’d do better on a site with a parking pad, though I’m sure it will infuriate the GGW crowd to suggest that.

  • “Where the suburbs met utopia” -Pet Shop Boys

    I love ColHi. I frequent Target, loathe (yet still go to) Giant. But I get my wines at D’Vines. I love getting cocktails at Alero. Le Caprice DC is just sheer awesome yet I still will grab my iced tall quad espresso with 1 pump mocha. I like the balance of indies and chains. I gave Ruby a try once and I had great service, but tend to opt for Pho Viet or The Heights. I used to be a small business owner so I tend to frequent mom and pop over chains but there has to be balance. Olive Garden eh. I could take it or leave it but honestly ANYTHING is better than those crappy riot gates. I will be happy to see them come down. I could not imagine living outside of the city again, so much here and so close. If I could make a wish for something to add to our great neighborhood….. clothing stores. Indie or chain but not everyone wears only athletic wear or Target brand (not that there is anything wrong with Target clothes).

    • +100. At first I just thought “Eww” but anything is better than the riot gates. I’ve been kvetching about them for 2 years. I mean, really Subway Sandwiches? You’re worried about mass looting of your veggie patties? I too prefer Pho Viet and Le Caprice, but something is better than nothing.

      Now, can we do something about all the litter?

  • Another addition to the outdoor food court.

  • Wow! the pallets of Popville are soooo advanced. i am willing to bet if you received Olive Garden food but packaged from a mom and pop business you fools would rave about it.

    • hahahaha, it’s so true. This is true for food from many chains. Maggiano’s would be proclaimed the best Italian food ever, if served in a dive atmosphere by an old Italian grandma

    • Come hungry, leave happy.

    • I only eat at places that serve Santa Barbara grilled eel beaks in a baby pinecone sauce.

    • I don’t have a large wooden transport structure suitable for lifting with a forklift . . . oh. You meant palate, not pallet.

      Tip – if you’re going to try to ridicule others, you should really make sure you use the correct words.

      • Enjoy your grilled eel beaks!

      • Pro Tip – your grander than thou image of yourself is false. you aren’t witty or smart.

        typos happen…sometime b/c of autocorrect on the iphon. the sentiment that reader posted should be the focus of your comment.

  • I blame anyone who says ‘CoHi’

  • I just wish the section of 14th above this area would evolve into something more than an eyesore of mobile phone minutes banners and lots of litter on the sidewalks. As for Olive Garden…. I think there are enough eateries in that area…. Would be nice to see something like the Petsmart suggestion or even a middle of the road clothing store like American Eagle Outfitter.

  • Olive Garden? Now DC can take its place among other great gastronomic destinations, such as Grand Forks, ND.

    • i suppose you prefer the eye sore that is the status quo.

      • I prefer some place where the food is edible. If I wanted to live near or eat at an Olive Garden, I’d move to some suburban hellscape like Sterling.

  • I’m sorry but I love their breadsticks.

  • an olive garden in columbia heights? HELL YES. TOUR OF ITALY FOR ALL!!!!

  • not every neighborhood in dc has to be like U street imo. like joker said, there are still a lot of lower income families in CH. small indie restaurants tend to be priced higher than these chains (imo). i see a lot on this board people talking about old timers and lower incomes being priced out, but then why didn’t they do anything to clean up their neighborhoods?? but when someone comes in and puts marshalls and olive garden it still isn’t good enough?

  • I love olive garden and echo the comments above about the benefits of increased foot traffic.

  • YESS!! I love olive garden!! I am psyched they are potentially coming to CH. I’ve said for years that I wish the Ruby Tuesday would just turn into an olive garden. to those who don’t like it, too bad. Even if I didn’t like it I’d be happy that a successful national chain is taking that spot rather than a liquor store or a vacant store front. I hate Ruby Tuesdays but I’m glad its there for the whole neighborhood. if these places are successful it will attract more people to CH to live, work and shop at smaller, local businesses. So this is a great development.

  • This is an interesting thread, cause it highlights the differences in what people think Columbia Heights is and what it should be. I agree with the posters who note that CH has thousands of lower income residents, and it makes me wonder if people hoping for a quick gentrification are taking that into account. I think Shaw is going to gentrify more quickly — for better or worse — because it seems more lightly populated overall. Gentrification of CH may require or result in the displacement of a lot more people. (I’m not saying that’s good or bad so chill.)

    That’s just my perception.

  • I always wondered when they were doing to redevelop this building. Always looked out of place with all the development around it. Olive Garden is terrible. The only good thing people can say about it, is the QUANTITY of food not quality. I hate the breadsticks, they taste like they’ve been in the microwave fresh from being frozen. Ruby Tuesdays is pretty good to me…I LOVE THEIR WINGS!!! I think OUTBACK STEAKHOUSE should be next. They are looking for a new DC Location

  • The Olive Garden isn’t my favorite place, certainly, but as a Columbia Heights homeowner, I’m happy when any vacant commercial space gets a business. And we’re getting lots of new choices, from the franchise places around DCUSA to the independent, new places on 11th and upper 14th Streets. Go where you like, but I’m happy to spend my money IN my neighborhood.

  • Another chain? Ughhh. And things were going so well there for a while, with all of the nice new unique places coming in.

  • Given PoP readerships absolute abyss of food ignorance (like schoolyard objections to the refined salmon terrine with a deft inlay, gravlax and vermout aspic in the previous post), the Olive Garden flavor profiles will be a perfect fit at a perfect price. The average commenter only objects to the banality that the name carries whereas if it were a lesser know chain they’d be content since the cost of conscientious highbrow food is far too dear, isn’t it…

  • Do olives grow in gardens?

  • Olive Garden’s not cool, per se, but considering Columbia Heights’ income diversity, I’m fine seeing a mid-priced restaurant come in.

  • As a CH homeowner, I welcome an Olive Garden. I am a late 20s professional in an artistic field, so I have many friends who disdain “corporate America” and don’t understand why I live in Columbia Heights, when I should have bought in Ledroit Park, H Street, whatever. Going beyond the convenience of having everything I need within a 5 block radius of my house, my friends seems to forget that not everyone is a white professional who listens to the Talking Heads and watches Portlandia. It’s hard for me to imagine a black, lower-middle class family being able to feel comfortable enough to get a meal at Big Bear Cafe or Rustic Inn. Hell, I am a minority that fits upper-middle class income brackets and have noticed at times I am the only non-white person dining in those establishments. I am personally in the camp of any development is good development, especially one that caters to the needs of the neighborhood. Looking forward to unlimited salad and breadsticks!

  • Not a fan of Olive Garden, but I’m glad that money and business is continuing to come into my neighborhood.

    I do wonder where all the old folks who chat on the sidewalk in their wheelchairs most evenings will sit while that fence is up?

  • Wow – interesting thread! I have heard the same comments when a number of businesses were planning on opening up in CH, and all are still there (with the exception of Radiance MedSpa, which I guess the CH folks are not as vain as some folks think they are). If you like OG, please go & bring your friends. If you’ve never been, be open-minded & give them a try. If you don’t care for them (or loathe their existence), don’t visit them. Me personally, I tend to support businesses that are willling to come to the neighborhood…& that my mom would like to visit.

  • Olive Garden in Columbia Heights = Hipsters need someplace to take their visiting parents.

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