New Marketing for Long Vacant Retail Spaces in DC USA

14th and Park Road, NW

Chick Fil A aside (or perhaps another example of depending on your perspective), folks have been pretty frustrated and disappointed with all the vacant retail spaces in DC USA on 14th Street in Columbia Heights. I recently noticed all the new marketing signs – hopefully it helps. Let’s say there’s room for 10 new tenants – how many you think should be restaurants vs some other retail?


40 Comment

  • I would be okay with all ten being new resturants.

    With that being said. Do you know what DC really needs. A musical instrument store. I don’t care if it’s electric guitars or synths. There is a severe lack compared with comparable cities. Meaning zero.

    • Speaking of a musical instruments store, where can I sell two decent guitars?

    • There’s Middle C in Tenlytown, that’s a pretty extensive music store. And the fantastic House of Musical Traditions, which is just over the border in Takoma Park. Yelp brings up a couple others too though I can’t vouch for them personally.

    • Blithe

      Well, the Guitar Shop closed about three years ago, and the Guitar Gallery also recently closed, although I’m not clear if this is permanent. Middle C Music is still open — so it’s not zero. House of Musical Traditions and Chuck Levin’s (originally located in DC) are quite wonderful albeit in different ways. I’ve also heard good things about Atomic Music. I’ve also purchased guitars through R Street Music — so, while it’s not a store, it is a great option.
      tldr: if we want musical instrument stores to stay around, we have to support them.

  • west_egg

    Sadface–I always thought Señor Chicken was pretty good.
    It seems like CH is about at capacity for take-away restaurants at this point, it would be nice to see some other options. Remember when we were all waiting for Ellwood Thompson’s to open? (And waiting, and waiting.) Ah, youth…
    How about a craft store? Along the lines of a Jo-Ann Fabrics (or, you know, their non-national chain equivalent).

    • goaldigger

      Ooh a craft store would be interesting. I’d love a hardware store (either here or in the street level of the new apt buildings in Adams Morgan). Logan Hardware is great but not a place I can walk to in an emergency. I’d also like a Home Goods (they could remove the houseware dept at Marshalls and make their clothing depts worth the trip).

      • A Home Goods and a hardware store would be great. Had to go over to Ace’s in Woodley on Sunday morning in the 90 degree heat. I know it’s a first world problem, but it would still be nice to have a store closer to home. I’d definitely patronize it more than the Home Depot.

      • There’s a hardware store on Mt Pleasant.

  • I’ve long since lost hope this will ever be anything decent. I think at this point we just spend our time on 11th street until this block is redeveloped in 2025.

  • These are the same brokers that have been working on the project for as long as I’ve been in the area (+2 years). They’ve left their gigantic brokerage and started their own-I’m hoping this means more initiative to get deals done, and hopefully more creativity. At the end of the day leases are up to the landlord, but one can hope!

  • It’ll have to be some sort of service industry store, food, finanial, barbery, etc. Who can compete with the combination of Best Buy, Target, BBB?

  • Dochter and Alexander are the same retail leasing “advisors”. They just no longer work for Cushman Wakefield.

    I don’t know how they managed to talk DCUSA into following them to their new company. It isn’t like those two have been very successful the past ~5 years in getting leases for DCUSA, and there are generally far more advantages to working for a larger, far more established company like Cushman (16,000 employees, 2.5 billion in revenue last year) who has more contacts and ability to transact deals. Their success at DCUSA the past 5 or 6 years has been pretty awful, especially considering the development boom during that time.

    I’ve never met these two, but this also may be the result of “chaff elimination”. Cushman is being bought by another real estate juggernaut, DTZ. It has been in the works for a few months but hit the papers about 3 weeks ago. When Dochter says “they tried to work out a new deal with Cushman and couldn’t come to terms”, it usually means “our talent bench is deeper than it needs to be and you aren’t sitting near the front, so good luck to you”

  • It would be great to get more restaurants like Mi Cuba, Pho 14, El rinconcito. What would be amazing is a deli with sandwiches and a little grocery.

  • I’m not sure if it would put Pollo Campero out of business but Wingstop would be a really good choice for the area. There’s one in Aspen Hill…the shopping center so it’s not too big but would probably make for a decent space where the old Senor Chicken was. But I agree with the posters here, it would have to be food at this point, maybe even a legit sports bar.

  • I have lived here since January 2012 and this has never been open – I remember when it was a ramen pop-up for a couple weeks in early 2012, but three years of vacancy is really ridiculous.
    I have occasionally seen the lights on, some of the furniture moved around.
    I wonder who owns the equipment? They have huge rotisseries etc…

    • palisades

      Good god that place is silly. Something similar would be cool. Like Muji. They sell small stationary things, as well as clothes, and general household items.

  • I really hope they get something soon, but I agree with the above comment of having to wait for the tax credits on low income residential buildings to expire around 2025 and the neighborhood to re-balance.
    When you see two shootings in the neighborhood in one day people aren’t going to be rushing to move in and the shops that follow them won’t come.

    • If people aren’t rushing to move in to Columbia Heights then I can’t figure out how I managed to get priced out of the neighborhood in 2007 when I was looking to buy a home after renting in the neighborhood for years.

      I’m very happy to have ended up in Petworth, but from the perspective of someone who lived in Columbia Heights before DCUSA was developed I find the concept of “waiting for the neighborhood to re-balance” almost comical. Its demographics have changed SO significantly in the past 15 years.

      I think this has everything to do with the rents/priorities of the developers/brokers involved in these large tax-advantaged developments. They have no incentive to take a chance on small local retailers or restaurants because they aren’t paying any taxes or other fees for a very long time because they “took a chance” on the neighborhood and apparently must be rewarded for doing so in perpetuity.

    • “people aren’t going to be rushing to move in”
      Not sure how that jives with the fact that I just sold a condo there in 6 days, with 10 offers. Maybe it’s like the old Yogi Berra saying, “It’s so crowded, no one goes anymore.”

  • HaileUnlikely

    I suspect the rent is so high that the only prospective tenants able to afford it are high-margin national chains.

    • dcdon

      Are the rents higher than on lower 14th street? they seem to be able to attract a lot of local restaurants and some chains.

      • HaileUnlikely

        I suspect that they probably are. More importantly, rents on lower 14th were almost certainly a whole lot lower than in DCUSA 2-3 years ago when most of the new restaurants came to lower 14th. Some of those same restaurants would probably have trouble being able to afford to move into their present location if they were moving in right now.

    • It’s not just the rents being high, but landlords prefer nationwide chains because there’s a greater measure of protection renting to an outpost of a larger chain. They’re better able to weather tough times, and even if a store closes it’s likely the landlord gets paid.

      • The landlords on lower 14th Street have (a) more diverse revenue streams, since their primary rental income comes from the apartments upstairs, (b) a more central location, and (c) a better vision of the retail they want, better brokers, and better pricing.

        DC USA’s owners are focused on their active projects in NYC. They are probably happy to collect their rent checks for now.

  • Maybe if they cleaned up the area a bit more, more people would like to spend more time in this area. I know things have improved in CH dramatically, but there is till room for improvement.

  • They need quality sit down restaurants. Enough with the national fast-food chains and low end retail. Thip Khao is super popular. It shows that a quality, locally owned restaurant can do well. And I get rent may be high, nutria it any higher than Logan Circle or H Street? Come on. It’s the developers fault.

    • The (presumable) autocorrect insertion of ‘nutria’ has made my day. I have no idea what it was supposed to be originally, but it doesn’t matter.

  • Maybe this is the right time for the long-awaited/rumored kite store and Arby’s to both finally come to fruition.

  • SO much potential! I’d love to see basically anything other than more generic fast food (love some of the places that are there, but it is enough). Anything from non-generic fast food (Native Foods Cafe, for example) to mixed retail/service like a bike store, to a crossfit, to upscale BS like a Papersource would be better than what is there! I’d love to see one of those Lunar Massage places. Bring us something good!

  • Ground-up development like this is only affordable to national retailers and with consolidation o f

    The people who don’t like mixing with the poor obviously weren’t near Columbia Heights 20 years ago, when that block had a few low end chain businesses and a very depressing post office. there’s also no guarantee that credits won’t be kept and/or that the area would continue to attract low income people (low wage jobs, mass merchandising retailers). Those folks should just move to some bubble suburb like Potomac and leave the rest of us alone.

  • plenty of food options in the area. i’d love to see another clothing store (like the gap factory that has been rumored to be moving in). also, a captial one bank would be incredibly useful. the nearest ones are in farragut and mt. vernon square.

  • Hair Cuttery (or Great Clips, SuperCuts, etc.)–somewhere to get a women’s wash and cut for about $20.

    If several spaces were combined, it could also work for a day care center, which is easier to operate on a ground floor.

    This would also be a great location for DC to open a DMV–lots of people live nearby, it’s accessible by transit, and there’s plenty of parking underground. It’s not the most exciting thing to have in a neighborhood, but it helps people who live in the area and it does bring workers and visitors during the day, which is valuable (CH doesn’t have a lot of office space, and some restaurants want to see lunchtime traffic before they consider opening).

  • dcdon

    I see a lot of requests for cheap things – cheap haircuts, gap outlet, homegoods, etc. How about a real Gap or a J Crew/Banana Republic? If people are buying $800K condos, shouldn’t there be some retail that appeals to them as well? Chevy Chase has a Nordstrom Rack and a TJ Max AND higher end stores. How about something for everybody and would draw more people.

  • DC USA is a failure overall. The smaller units just can’t seem to get filled. Wing stop would be perfect and so would a department of motor vehicles. At this point there needs to be practical businesses like banks, government and so on.

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