Can Walmart Help Revitalize A Corner of D.C.?
There are few reasons to go to Dix Street NE, far on the city's northeastern border. It's got a handful of small churches, some nice parks, and some industrial warehouses that may or may not be vacant. Though inhabited, it feels empty, with only a few dubious-looking carryouts and liquor stores in the way of commerce.
But local real estate players have big hopes for the dormant main street. Already, construction is underway and units are selling at Eden Place, a 63-unit townhouse development priced according to income and family size. UrbanMatters, a development partner on Eden Place, also plans to build 39 affordable units on 62nd Street, using land sold by the District last year. Beulah Baptist Church owns a chunk of land between 59th and 60th Streets, and wants to attract retail to help the area become a neighborhood-serving commercial hub—as recommended by the Office of Planning in a small area plan completed three years ago.
Perhaps the biggest thing the little neighborhood has going for it, though, is the planned development of a Walmart blocks away on land owned by the District of Columbia Housing Authority. While the other three planned locations have generated some resistance, there's been little action in Ward 7 other than an ongoing effort to negotiate a community benefits package with the developer. The infusion of retail would bolster the case for living in an area where the nearest substantial grocery store is in Maryland. As things stand, sales at the Glenncrest development across the street from the Walmart lot have slowed to a trickle—in a city with as much need for housing as D.C., there are still about 50 units left.
Of course, Walmarts historically haven't been great for local main streets.
But with next to nothing there now, more retail could lead to increased residential density that would support the kinds of businesses that don't compete with Walmart and add to quality of life. It's the kind of opportunity that Marion Barry's Ward 8, with a Walmart plunking down just south of the D.C. border near National Harbor, will likely never get.