An Apple Store at the Carnegie Library?

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801 K Street, NW

This is a multiple reader request (apologies for the delay). The Washington Post reported on Wednesday:

“Representatives from Apple have proposed opening a flagship store and events center in one of the District’s most prominent and historic buildings, the Carnegie Library in Mount Vernon Square…

Its protected status, however, has made it difficult to re-use. A stint as local history museum lasted barely a year. A planned music museum there never opened. And the International Spy Museum initially planned to move in but opted instead for L’Enfant Plaza after its plans were turned away by the city’s historic preservation panel.”


The story also notes that current resident, the Historical Society of Washington D.C., will remain in the building too until at least 2098. Anyway, what do you think – good idea or bad idea? Regardless of how you feel, do you think it will really happen or at least has a chance? Or should we still hold out hope for somewhere in the U Street Corridor? The Wharf? Where do you think the next Apple store would fit best in the District?

69 Comment

  • Make it an Amazon Bookstore.

  • My vote is for a 7/11, or a Subway.

  • How does anyone think this is a good idea? It’s depressing to even think about it…

    • Because the alternative is a vacant building. My personal preference would be an Eataly

      • It currently houses the Historical Society of Washington DC. It is not vacant. DC Public Library is planning to share their space there while MLK Library is closed. But the space available to them is limited by Events DC.

      • +100000 for Eataly…. But that would require too much change inside i think…..

        • As crazy as that would be, it seems like some sort of larger, food/marketplace would be a much better use of the space – including the exterior plazas and lawn. Something like a Chelsea Market.

    • I think it is a great idea. I have lived here for almost 25 years, and repeated attempts to do something with this space have been flops. Let’s get something in there that will be a draw, and continue the significant increase in foot traffic that has occurred around this space. I, however, have no hope this will actually occur.

  • It’s ridiculous that the only Apple Store in DC is all the way in Georgetown (the Clarendon being more accessible for the most part). But why make things so hard on themselves? Is CityCenterDC more expensive/less vacant?

    • That’s true, but if you look at the history it makes a little sense. Apple bought the building in 2007. At that time, where in DC should it have gone? City Center didn’t exist. Most of the high-ish end retail in DC was in either Georgetown or Chevy Chase, and there already was an Apple Store in Bethesda (or it was planned, I think). Don’t know why they aren’t locating at city center, though – perhaps the large space they want isn’t available, or is cost prohibitive?

    • accendo

      Yeah, I’m also surprised they didn’t end up at CityCenter.

      • Citycenter seems to be about “fashion”. An Apple store isn’t in the same league as Hermes, even though the Apple brand is arguably schlocky and pretentious as as Fig & Olive.

        • Apple is ubiquitous in 2016. There’s nothing pretentious about it when my 70 year old mother has an iPhone and iPad.

          • it might not be in the same league as hermes price wise, but when they’re collaborating on watch straps for the apple watch, I think that shows they cater to the same customer.

          • I don’t think that’s particularly insightful – what down-market business doesn’t wish to attract up-market dollars?

          • Sorry, I was not arguing with Rich over whether Apple was good enough for City Center. I was only taking issue with the idea it is pretentious. I definitely wished it had jumped at City Center. But let’s stop pretending owning an Apple product is on part with shopping at Hermes. It isn’t.

          • Apple is as pre tensions as ever with all the excitement they generate for dropping the earphone jack., which isn’t even a new idea.

            The point of City Center is to draw high rollers. Apple generally goes for some place that ma be aspirational like GT or Bethesda, but not super high end. City Center wants something a bit higher end than that.

      • I feel like if they went anywhere, 14th and or U/9th is really more appropriate. City Center is really going for an ultra-high end fashion experience – the Rodeo Drive of DC – so to speak.

        • It wasn’t for lack of City Center interest that Apple didn’t end up there. They built a retail bay specifically for Apple hoping to land them as a tenant, but Apple never signed on.

          • But was that from the developer? Because, let’s be honest. Every developer thinks they are going to get an Apple Store, REI and Whole Foods as their anchor tenants.

          • Except CCDC is different from “every developer”. My understanding is that Apple didn’t take the space due to a negotiation failure. CCDC wouldn’t budge enough for Apple: “this is a high-rent district – we’re doing YOU a favor by offering one of our bays, and we know you can more than afford the asking rent”. I don’t really care either way – I buy a phone every 2 years with my contract renewals, a laptop and iPad every 5-6 years, without actually stepping into the store. Their physical store isn’t selling me anything; I already know what I want and where to go online to get it.

          • The physical store is nice because you can quickly get a replacement/fix when your device breaks (this is done for free for known issues and for relatively small fees for other stuff). I usually buy stuff online but frequently use the repair services. Plus, sometimes I like to play with the new devices before deciding whether to upgrade this time around.
            .
            All in all, would like a store further east than Georgetown/Bethesda Row/Clarendon. Though I understand dcd’s point above about why one doesn’t exist yet.

          • They went far down the road with City Center but it took way too long and it turned into a battle over minutiae during later lease negotiations and I’ve heard that the law firm in the building has Samsung as huge client. Apple might dwarf Covington as a company, but Covington dwarfed Apple as the lead tenant with 425,000 sf and they had a lot of say over things a tenant could or couldn’t do on the building and made things difficult so the deal died. Not sure why the developers were so enamored with Couture fashion that hardly anyone buys. The elite save that for NY trips. Hermes and Gucci were originally slated as restaurants with outdoor seating.

  • Jerry Grundle

    I thought Union Station would’ve been a much better location, but maybe they were unable to get the sort of grand space there that they like to use for their flagship stores. Regardless, I trust Apple with the Carnegie Library a lot more than I trust the District of Columbia with it.

  • It could go anywhere and itd be more convenient than where they have one now. I know they rent this space out for events – I’m not sure why Apple would need a space this large. I don’t know the details on City Center, but I’m really disappointed in the stores that ended up there. Much rather have Apple, Nordstrom and other “high” end, not stores almost exclusively for the .05%. That area would be bustling if so. There’s people around City Center but not many considering the density of the area and it being all retail/restaurants.

  • There are a lot of gorgeous buildings in this city and others that go completely unused for various reasons. We could all bemoan their cultural significance as a reason for them to go unused until they fall into disrepair, or, we could slap historic designations on them so that they can’t be raised and allow them to be used again. Would I rather see this great building used as something else? Absolutely. But we all know the District won’t touch it. I say lease the building to Apple and let them do their thing.

    • Amen Anonomom! And all you Have to do is Google what Apple’s done in markets internationally and most recently in Union Square in San Francisco – they would bring Carnegie back to its glory. Today, Carnegie is barely open, except for weekend events – the building museum flopped. The grounds are a mess. Apple has tons of cash and they are big on aesthetics – they will no doubt do it right.

  • I was hoping for a Nandos

  • This should be the main downtown library. Close MLK and sell the land to developers. Take the proceeds and turn this into the best public city library in the country.

    • This already has been proposed and shot down. the space is smaller than MLK and it would need extensive renovation.

    • You do realize that the MLK Library is a Mies van der Rohe building – his last project, only library project – and a historical landmark?

      • yes. It’s also heinous and terribly designed for its purpose as a library. Other than that its great.

        • Like most Mies buildings , it’s a big open space which makes it perfect for a library and adaptable for may uses. All it needs is stuff like updated systems and new windows to make up for decades of neglect. I suspect the Carnegie was never a serious alternative to the current MLK structure–just a way to get people to get behind ruining the simple functional design in the name of spending money and doing something useless and glitzy.

        • The problem with the MLK library is that of context. On its own, surrounded by ample open space, the library is a great (albeit unornamented) work of art. But as is, it’s dwarfed by the neighboring buildings that effectively crowd it out in a dense, busy urban landscape.

    • There are a a lot of reasons why -most importantly space/size – the Main branch moved out of that building and those reasons haven’t changed. That space is not a good fit for a 21st century library and jerry rigging sounds like trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

    • It’ll also just mean that the vagrants will move a few blocks north and park themselves out in the grassy areas and come in to use the library for air conditioning when it’s hot out like they do now at MLK and then the rest of the public will continue to ignore the building altogether like they do today.

      I’ve lived here nearly 20 years and have never stepped foot in that building. I hope Apple takes it, maintains the character inside and out and gives me a reason to go into it.

      • “I’ve lived here nearly 20 years and have never stepped foot in that building.”
        .
        Just because you don’t use the MLK Library doesn’t mean no one else does. I didn’t set foot in a D.C. library until 6 years after I moved to the District… but that was because my nearest branch wasn’t particularly convenient to me, I worked in the ‘burbs and for most of that time, I had library privileges near where I worked.
        .
        When I did finally start working in D.C., I joined at the MLK Library and used it as my primary library for the next few years.

        • Sorry if I was not clear (though I’m pretty sure it was), when I said I had not stepped foot in the building, I was referring to the Carnegie Library, not the MLK Library. I have stepped foot in the MLK Library for events held there. I would probably go there a lot more if the outside didn’t smell like urine.

    • dont worry, Amazon’s in town scouting – but they’re opening small stores, testing the waters I’m pretty sure. Funny how it’s gone full circle: Barnes/Borders killed the independents, and now Amazon has stomped Barnes/Borders because people would waste their space for hours, read, have a coffee and then buy from Amazon (so those people shouldn’t complain about Barnes dying). Apple is the new Barnes where people congregate and now it’ll be with Bono or Rihana playing a few sets here and there. Now that Amazon has crushed Barnes/Borders, the independents are ironically flourishing again. Crazy times.

    • The Carnegie building WAS the original DCPL central library before MLK was built. DCPL outgrew it and modernized. There is no way the Carnegie building could accommodate the tech/fabrication/studio labs, the special collections, accessibility, performance space, etc that MLK has.

  • Admittedly, Im not an apple user – but I’ve always felt like an Apple store is somewhat gimmicky. Do you (apple users) go there frequently? Isn’t it more of a once in a while store? In which case traveling to Georgetown or VA is not terribly prohibitive?

    I live at city center and think it would be a great fit there, but as a life long Washingtonian it would just seem kinda unexciting to use that amazing space for an Apple store.

    • I agree. It’s current use is much more exciting.

    • Ashy Oldlady

      I think product support is the main draw for a lot of customers. The only times I’ve purposefully gone to an Apple Store were when there was a battery recall on my iPhone, and when my 2-month-old iPad decided to flake out.

    • The building being locked most weekdays, pretty much unused, gets me pretty excited. Apple stores are usually pretty much dead, so I see the logic.

  • The problem with the people who are pooh-poohing this is that you are thinking too small. Apple isn’t planning on opening a traditional retail store; they are looking at something like their new flagship store in SF, which incorporates multiple public spaces which are available for events, tech/workshop areas, and more. Imagine if they were to take proper advantage of the space around the building to make it more lively. As attractive as this building itself is, right now it is just a dead block with minimal interaction with street traffic. That could be dramatically improved in a way that helps further stitch together Chinatown, Penn Quarter and Mt. Vernon.

    • Exactly Tacopuss! If it were the same theme as their new San Fran global flagship, they’d activate the grounds with events and clean and repair the building. Other great retail and restaurants would probably flock there as a result so for those of you mentioning Eataly, problem solved.

  • “they are looking at something like their new flagship store in SF, which incorporates multiple public spaces which are available for events, tech/workshop areas, and more.”
    that’s basically what libraries are doing in other cities. (ex: Melrose Center in Orlando.) So I’d actually like to see it opened as a library again, with classes, computers, etc. That said, I agree with the people saying that they don’t trust the DC government with it.

  • CVS / Lou Lou superstore

  • The upside of this possibility is that an Apple store will certainly draw crowds of people to it. So, if the old library is to become retail, Apple would seem to be a good choice. The location isn’t great for casual foot traffic, and Apple is probably one of the best stores to overcome that.

    (Though if it’s very successful, I can see the pedestrians really jamming up Mass Ave traffic when Apple has a major product release.)

    It will be interesting to see if it can lead to any decent spinoff retail nearby.

    • If someone wanted this to be a more significant commercial area, then Apple would be a good anchor, but it’s really surrounded by hotels and unlikely to be a real commercial destination. Union Station would have made more sense, but they wanted something too ostentatious for the space. A better location given the slow rebirth of retail near F Street would be in one of the larger spaces there or as a redevelopment of one of the ugly modern buildings around there.

      • I mean, this is basically a block from City Center. It is a significant commercial area. Also, hotels love commercial areas so I’m not sure why the fact there are hotels detracts from the idea there could be more commercial retail around there. There are plenty of new buildings going up all around there that will undoubtedly have retail spots on ground floors. And there are certainly tons of restaurants in the vicinity.

        I also think the location for Apple would be good because of the hotels and the convention traffic. People here for conventions would undoubtedly stroll in just to have something to do other than sit in their hotel rooms, or to buy headphones they forgot for their trip or a charger. I sometimes walk into Apple stores if they aren’t busy just to poke around and see what accessories are out there for my Apple products.

        • Yes ADvisory Board Co. Just leased 525,000 sf in an I’ve 700k sf project at the corner of NY Ave and Mt 7th just across from Carnegie and there’s going to be a ton of retail – historic and new – lining 7th and NY. And yes, there will be substantial spin-off of additional retail/restaurants bc of Apple.

  • While I personally am not a fan of Apple products, I think they could make a nice store out of the space and really activate that block.
    If I were the DC govt, I’d try to make a deal with Apple which would allow them to use the building as a store if they agree to hold one of their corporate events or product release events at our convention center.

    • I like the idea but I think Apple would say no, frankly. The city hardly has the bargaining power here. Apple has survived without a downtown DC store just fine. If the deal isn’t squarely in its favor, it won’t do it. But who knows, maybe they’d think it was a great idea.

      • I don’t agree – both parties benefit big time and if Apple is smart – and it’s clear that they are – they’d want to cut a deal with the city and have events or in some ways give to the community as a public gesture as they’ve done elsewhere. I think that because both parties really benefit a lot that it’s destined to happen.

  • I know someone working on this project. Barring significant red tape from the city, it is going to happen.

  • goaldigger

    I never thought Trump would be running a hotel in the Old Post Office (so there are worse ideas!)

  • How is this a bad idea?? Apple’s idea of creating gathering places vs traditional stores is brilliant, and Carnegie would no doubt fit that mold (http://www.businessinsider.com/angela-ahrendts-apple-stores-social-2016-8). With so much online shopping, retailers need to be innovative and create experiences to attract people off their couches. They’d end up having concerts and events thee I’m sure – they’re the largest music company in the world – we’ve had about a million restaurants come to the city recently! We’ve hit a tipping point with restaurants. Traditional retailing is over. Keep in mind they’d clean up and activate the property, generate tons of jobs for DC residents, and generate major sales tax for DC — so DC wins with jobs, sales tax, rent, renovated landmark — Apple wins, Historic Preservationists win, Bowser wins, Tim Cook wins, Historic Society wins, the consumer wins, job-seekers win, the neighborhood wins. …what’s there not to like? The building’s barely ever open now! You should Google what they’ve done with historics buildings throughout the world. They wouldn’t piss off the Historic preservationists because their MO now is to maintain a building’s historic fabric. The Spy Museum tried to redevelop/add building additions, and that’s what killed that deal. Let’s all hope this Happens!

  • How is this a bad idea?? Apple’s idea of creating gathering places vs traditional stores is brilliant, and Carnegie would no doubt fit that mold (http://www.businessinsider.com/angela-ahrendts-apple-stores-social-2016-8). With so much online shopping, retailers need to be innovative and create experiences to attract people off their couches. They’d end up having concerts and events thee I’m sure – they’re the largest music company in the world – we’ve had about a million restaurants come to the city recently! We’ve hit a tipping point with restaurants. Traditional retailing is over. Keep in mind they’d clean up and activate the property, generate tons of jobs for DC residents, and generate major sales tax for DC — so DC wins with jobs, sales tax, rent, renovated landmark — Apple wins, Historic Preservationists win, Bowser wins, Tim Cook wins, Historic Society wins, the consumer wins, job-seekers win, the neighborhood wins. …what’s there not to like? The building’s barely ever open now! You should Google what they’ve done with historics buildings throughout the world. They wouldn’t piss off the Historic preservationists because their MO now is to maintain a building’s historic fabric. The Spy Museum tried to redevelop/add building additions, and that’s what killed that deal. Let’s all hope this Happens!

  • Oh shucks. I was hoping we’d get another bank.

  • Why is everyone acting like this building is vacant??? The DC historical society library and archives are there and Events DC makes tons of money renting out the rest of the building for events and conferences.