Housing Complex

The Value of Districts

Prince of Petworth puts words to something I'd been thinking for a while: There's a point at which enough commercial establishments gather in one place that they can realistically be called a "district," or a loosely-defined area where you might go when you're looking for a certain thing, rather than a specific address. It seems like an advantage for businesses to cluster this way, since they can then market themselves as a group, rather than isolated entities (the problem with the D.C. Arts District isn't the district concept, but rather huge and nebulous area it's trying to claim rather artificially). I put together a map of the areas I think could justify the term "district," either currently or with a little more development. (Some are more dubious, and desirable, than others).

UPDATE, 6:50 p.m. – The map has been tweaked to reflect the actual location of things.

  • Mony

    Interesting map, I'd cut off the western half of the "Gayborhood" (Conn Ave./Dupont Circle seem to me the boundary) and extend it eastward to Logan Circle

  • RobShaw

    Ethiopia-town is a little small. And there are Eritreans in this city, they may take exception to that.

  • Ward 1 Guy

    An effort to rename area around 9th and U st. "Little Ethiopia" caused an uproar because it stepped on toes of "long-time residents" who felt that Black Broadway was being encroached. I would have sided with the Ethiopians. You can have both this rich segregation era African American history and the current flavor of the neighborhood coexist (cake and eat it too) and neither would detract from the other.

    I know it's hand-drawn, but the Government district circle needs to go right up to 395 to capture the tens of thousands of bureacrats who occupy that area between Federal Center SW and L'Enfant Plaza.

    Sports district doesn't really work, because the major sporting arenas include the Verizon Center and RFK as well as Nationals Stadium.

  • Joey

    What makes Target "vintage?"

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    Lydia: There's not a single adult-oriented business in the part of Bladensburg you circled. I realize this is just a draft, but if you're going to talk about clubs of that nature, you need to be looking at West Virginia Avenue closer to the northern edge of Ivy City, and Queens Chapel Road northeast of the US 50 shield on this map.

    Besides, you put Kathy Henderson's house in the middle of the red-light district on this map, and I'm sure she wouldn't like that... :)

  • Steve

    Red Light District? Don't think so.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention The Value of Districts - Housing Complex - Washington City Paper -- Topsy.com

  • Paul

    I don't see the point of "Nice Restaurant" district for Barracks. It should have to be some cluster the area/corridor has to offer that is sparsely available elsewhere in the city. Furniture, High End Fashion, Gallery and Tourism fit that bill. Otherwise don't force the district label and just go with the actual neighborhood name.

  • Bill

    I don't think there's a single restaurant in your "nice restaurants" district, just an abandoned school and residences. You probably meant south of Pennsylvania Ave on Barracks Row?

  • Eric

    Bill's right. The "nice restaurants" district should be south of PA Ave. Even so, not all the restaurants are nice, and I think "Barracks Row" fits the bill perfectly as it is right now.

  • JustMe

    What's the "vintage district"?

  • JS

    @JustMe: the four vintage thrift stores that just opened on a 2-block stretch of 14th NW between Monroe & Meridian Pl.

  • http://www.eya.com EYA at Chancellor’s Row

    Great post! I've always thought DC could benefit from the District concept that New York enjoys. I am surprised that DC Arts District chose this part of town to locate the Arts District. In fact, the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC is about to blossom into a much larger concentration of arts-oriented space and studios. The $13 million Dance Place and Artspace lofts will add 41 live-work homes for artists. And the adjacent ABDO Catholic University redevelopment will add 18,000 s.f. of artist studios. We wonder if Brookland will actually be DC's bonafide Arts District in the coming years.

  • Anonymous

    Actually what this underscores is just how ridiculous, amorphous, and subjective this kind of labeling has become.

    " the problem with the D.C. Arts District isn't the district concept"...I'll almost say amen to that. The problem with this scheme is that it is in actuality a make-work cash cow for the "crack marketing team", the cupcake and the doughnut as they are known, that foisted it on the community. Lets just hope they don't finagle their $1500.00 per (paid for by unregulated slush fund proceeds) fugly banners on all these other "districts". The result has been the devaluing of branding efforts that had already taken root. As has been said before long DC will look like a midievil jousting field.

    The "Places From Which You Can See the Douglas Development Sign District" is more legitimate.

  • Rick Mangus

    Mo Barry's Ward 8 should be called, Crackatowa!

  • Ward 1 Guy

    +1 to Anonymous re: Douglas Development Sign District. Maybe "Douglas Development" should run for at-large Council seat and kill 2 birds with 1 stone (and cut out the middleman).

  • hnc

    Agree with Mony's comment. The current Dupont gayborhood really extends from the restaurants and bars on 17th to the Whole Foods on P.

    The stretch of bars and restaurants on 11th in Columbia Heights might be an up-and-coming district of some sort.

  • Lydia DePillis

    OK goodness, this was just an approximate thing that I scrawled on Paintbrush to illustrate how it looks like commercial development is working in the city, but I made a few tweaks so as not to be egregiously inaccurate (namely the location Barracks Row and the "red light district," which I hoped would be clear is a facetious designation). Also, I'm not suggesting changing neighborhood names, but people who know about retail and restaurant development talk quite a bit about forging an identity and brand for a particular area, which you can call whatever you want--i.e. when I say Barracks Row, you probably think nice places to eat. You know?

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    Lydia: Hate to do this, but on the updated map you moved Barracks Row up to just south of Mass Ave., not Pennsylvania Ave.

  • http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com Richard Layman

    Uh, you and PoP need to read some urban economics and the discussion of agglomeration economies... Saxenian, Porter and others call this "clustering."

    Jacobs (_Death and Life_ sure but especially _The Economy of Cities_), Lynch (The Image of the City), and others also discuss agglomeration and districts.

    And it's the basic concept behind the Main Street Approach to commercial district revitalization in terms of developing and/or strengthening "niches."

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    hahahahaha...richard recommended that dan read something? droll.