Housing Complex

Georgia Avenue Walmart Plan: It’s…A Walmart.

The showy facade.

Walmart and developer Foulger-Pratt have submitted their formal application for the Curtis Chevrolet site to the Office of Planning, and there aren't many surprises: It's got an attractive entryway and a couple of street-level retail bays, but looking over the site plans is a sad reminder that it remains in essence a one-level big-box store on a site that had so much more potential.

In community meetings, Walmart spokesman Keith Morris has said that the plans "changed dramatically" in response to community input. I can't tell what those changes are at this point, but will update if they get back to me to explain.

As promised, the facade incorporates elements of the historic car barn on the site, with arches and reclaimed brick. Large windows facing the sidewalk and cafe tables also create some element of welcoming public space.

But the part of the application that will probably be of most interest to neighbors is the very long traffic study, which Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins himself told opposition groups might pose problems for the 106,000 square foot development.

The consultants, of course, have concluded that with certain minor signal changes, the store should have "no detrimental impact" on traffic flow. In part, that's because they figure 26 percent of peak hour weekday visits will be taken by commuters who would have passed by the site anyway. Total, the study anticipates the store to generate 188 net new trips during a.m. peak hours on weekdays, 272 during p.m. peak hours on weekdays, and 355 during Saturday peak hours.

As for parking: The project includes 348 below-grade parking spaces. For bikes, it's got 37 rack spaces, and will bring in a Capital Bikeshare station. But the traffic study points out the fact that Georgia Avenue is a terrible corridor for bicycling, and not that great for pedestrians either–if they want to throw in more community benefits, upgrades to the street for better bike access would be a good place to start.

From here, District agencies and affected community groups now have 30 days to submit comments, and the ANC will be afforded great weight (which just means the Office of Planning will have to justify any of its recommendations it doesn't act upon). Councilmember Muriel Bowser says she's "cautiously optimistic" about the plan, and has advised the Mayor's office that "any potential burdens to existing infrastructure, or any negative impacts from increased traffic must be mitigated and paid for by Walmart; not the District."

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

    it's only "dramatically" changed if the bar you're setting for yourself to jump over is so low it's scraping the ground, keith morris.

  • http://marketurbanism.com Stephen Smith

    From what I understand about traffic studies, they are wildly scientifically invalid, and essentially penalize you for both density and a lack of parking. If Walmart thought they'd have trouble pushing this design through, I imagine that anything denser would have been completely off the table. If I'm reading the situation correctly, it looks like this might not be Walmart's fault. I guess the proof lies in the traffic impact study and its methodology.

  • Bob See

    Doesn't matter what they do, people will still find something to criticize about it. The Tyson's plan, which I'm guessing is what's desired here, is being met with complete indifference from the "urban" crowd, and if that were proposed here it would be hated on by the anti-development crowd (oh noes traffic!) even more. btw, it still looks like the P St. Whole Foods.

    Bottom line: it's not what, it's who.

  • Rick Mangus

    WELCOME WALMART, now let's break ground and start building!

  • http://alexblock.net Alex B.

    @Stephen Smith

    That's somewhat true, but all density is not equal in the eyes of the traffic study. Use matters. Specifically, it will change the time of day for the peak traffic loads considerably. Adding residential to a project like this might not increase the traffic impacts that much because of internal trip capture (i.e. people who live in the development and just walk to the WalMart) that will eliminate trips

    That's said, you're generally right - traffic studies are often just educated guesses. That doesn't make them bad or useless, but all too often, too much precision is given to these analyses that are by nature imprecise and uncertain.

    As for the site plan itself - meh.

  • ray

    hurry up and build this one, then start the one on bladensburg in my nieghborhood. Welcome to DC Walmart!

  • Brian

    I don't think it looks bad. I'm sure the first month it will look great until apathetic workers and a disgusting public will turn it into a mess on par with Target and Home Depot.

  • Bryant Turnage

    Ugly, ugly, ugly, and adds about as much to the neighborhood as any one-story strip mall ever can. But the ship is already sailed; people are so willing to believe the "jobs" promises and buy cheap toilet paper and cat food that there's no stopping it - or even hoping for crumbs of community improvements.

  • NoWalmart

    Horrible! Damn Shame.....

  • Maria

    Didn't Walmart make lots of noise about how they were going to move into areas with limited grocery access, 'food deserts' and the like? How is moving 6 blocks south of a big Safeway going to bring in anything but layoffs for Safeway employees. It's not even a crappy Safeway like the one at Georgia Ave metro; this one seems like it's fairly new. Normally I'm all for development on Georgia Ave., but this is ridiculous.

  • Jason

    Please consider these points when reviewing the Walmart proposal:

    1. Traffic studies. These are notoriously misleading. First of all, they are paid for by developers. Even when the money isn't paid directly, they certainly know where their bread and butter comes from. Even a simple Google search can show you the widely varying traffic estimates with little to back them up. You might also note the interesting lack of published traffic studies saying NOT to build a large box store. Usually they make a few minor suggestions and then say there will be minimal impact. You can also access Walmart's investor relations materials and see the number of visitors at each store the time they spend there and how much money they spend. It doesn't take much investigation to see that all these numbers don't add up to what the District is being told. Now maybe traffic studies aren't what should ultimately make the determination here, but it is an issue. This site is just North of the terminus of Colorado and Illinois Avenues. It is also at the intersection of several important through streets which are already notoriously congested. It will be difficult for even a small traffic increase not to have a large effect. And for the record, "commuters passing by the site anyway"is very different than commuters stopping, pulling in, and pulling out. Any traffic planner should be able to tell you that is no mitigating factor.

    2. Taxes, jobs and Income. A small number of DC residents will be paid temporarily by the construction. A smaller number will have low wage jobs at the store. This will be seriously offset by the loss of small business in the area. Remember, most small business operate on a very narrow profit margin, it at all. Even a one percent reduction in customers can be the difference between a locally owned corner business and boarded-up windows. This doesn't even address the fact that use of local businesses supports the local economy. Dollars spent at Walmart immediately leave the local economy. Except the tax dollars and those won't be terribly significant in the grand scheme of DC government. As an example, how many times do you think community members run to the corner store to get milk, a bottle of wine, or some toilet paper? Now imagine how many will do that if they have three cases of wine, a three gallon jug of milk and four dozen rolls of toilet paper from their last trip to Walmart?

    My point is this: at the cash register, Walmart IS probably cheaper. I the long run, it may be FAR more expensive. You might get forty cents off your toilet paper, but when the local stores are gone the future for Brightwood might not look so bright. And you might wonder if that forty cents you saved was worth it.

    3.

  • Bring it On!

    Exactly which "small local businesses" are we concerned about? Safeway? CVS? Neither is so small and neither is exactly local in my book. I say bring it on!

  • Kevin J

    I don't understand why the ANC members and CM Bowser can't see that a stand along WalMart is NOT a good thing for the community. If it were a mixed use project, that would be much more beneficial to our community. I'd like to see a sit down restaurant, retail and housing at the site.

    A stand along big box store is only going to make things worse. Without a metro nearby, everyone will have to drive there, or walk from the surrounding community. That means that if you are walking and you buy a lot of items, you'll have to push a cart home (leaving the cart on the sidewalk when you're done) That also leaves people open to get robbed or assaulted by those in the community who will prey on WalMart customers walking to and from the store.

    I know CM Bowser is concerned about jobs, and rightfully so however, her stand that some jobs is better than no jobs doesn't fly with me. I expect better from my councilmember, and other politicians. Jobs without a living wage is just as bad a no job at all. If you can't afford to live in a community where you work, what's the point? I'll remember that come re-election time.

    It seems as if many of those in favor of WalMart, do not live in the adjacent community so they don't care either way. They only see that they don't have to drive far to get to a WalMart. Never mind the negative direct, and indirect cumulative effects that this project will have on the community.

    Our fight has only just begun. Let's use this 30 day comment period to let our voices be heard, and our action be swift. Interestingly enough, CM Bowser did not include in her newsletter this week how folks can submit comments. She only mentioned that the ANC would have "great weight". Does this mean that we should storm the ANC meetings?

  • Rick Mangus

    Well I see all the union stooges have got their talking points from their union handlers! Why don't we let the old Curtis Chevrolet just sit there and become a crack house and let the pawn shops, liquor stores to thrive, is that what you want?

  • Petworth

    Is there any way to design the building so that the store's structure could support housing on top of it in the next 5 years or so? My understanding is that it isn't viable (at least, that is what they are saying) to build housing now, but that in five-eight years from now everyone will be kicking themselves for not doing it. So can they structure the building so there is the option down the road to add housing to it?

  • Bob See

    @Kevin J: "Does this mean that we should storm the ANC meetings?"

    That would be awesome! The "too much traffic!" crowd could duke it out with the "more mixed-use density!" crowd. Perhaps some of them will end up arguing with themselves.

    Perhaps the "local business living wages!" crowd could join in and fight for those take-outs, liquor stores, and hair salons they never go to.

  • Steve

    The community blew it big-time with this. They had a great proposal for mixed-use, mixed retail on the site. It would have been an anchor and a gathering place for the whole community. Now they are going to get a suburban big box that will just attract a lot of cars. Oh well, maybe we can try again in 50 years.

  • Bob See

    How is a mixed-use-mixed retail development not going to attract just as many cars? By adding residential, there will be more people in proximity to shop there without driving, sure, but that won't reduce the number of people living in the surrounding areas driving there. Also, adding residential just adds more cars to rush-hour traffic, which at this particular spot is a big problem already.

    It's doom and gloom any way you look at it. Let's fight to keep it vacant!

  • Rebekka Sprenger

    Hello everyone,
    I am in a
    group project for an Conflict Resolution Skills course and have
    been asked to do an assignment assessing a DC based situation.

    Our group is trying to learn more about the issues around the four
    Walmart sites througout different wards in the city.

    Would anyone be willing to answer some of questions?
    Rebekka
    --

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  • Vonciel

    WELCOME..WELCOME..WELCOME..WALMART!!!!!!!...WALMART..You are welcome..My first visit to Walmart from Marland was to Camden Arkansas and I was like I wish we had Walmart in Maryland..Where else could you go 1982 and buy 30 -wallet size photos for $1..Only at Walmart..I am so so so so Happy that we are getting our first Walmart in Washington DC..Haters go take A seat and if you are so much NOT interested you dont have to shop at Walmart..Just because I like Oranges and you like apples dont make one from the other any better..Walmart has MONIES and won their rights to build in Washibgton DC so STOP hating BECAUSE its now a DONE DEAL..You are Welcome WALMART to our DC COMMUNITY Anytime..Those that dont like it can go SCRAM..YEA WALMART!!!!!!.

  • Drez

    Crap.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/ Mr T in DC

    I'm glad they're putting in a Capital Bikeshare station!

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