Housing Complex

A Housing Complex Bet: Trader Joe’s Coming to 14th and U

Old rendering – JBG says new ones will be ready in a couple weeks. (Eric Colbert Associates)

So, over a year ago I pooh-poohed a rumor that a Trader Joe's was nosing around near 14th and U streets NW. Well, I've since heard from a very good source that Trader Joe's is, in fact, headed for the massive new development just getting underway on the intersection's southwest corner: The project formerly known as Utopia, which will include 267 apartment units above 30,000 square feet of ground floor retail. No leases have been signed yet, so neither JBG nor Trader Joe's would comment. Councilmember Jack Evans' staff hadn't heard about it, and neither had the local advisory neighborhood commissioner.

But nobody told me no. And it makes all the sense in the world. Trader Joe's only needs between 10,000 and 15,000 square feet, on "high-traffic community strips," according to a checklist passed on to me by a development consultant. Their only other D.C. location in Foggy Bottom has absurd checkout lines. Other than Best DC Supermarket on 15th, and the nichey Yes! Organic Market at 14th and V, there are no grocers in that immediate area. And the surrounding community has very high income and education levels, which are the main demographic characteristics Trader Joe's looks for in a new location.

So consider that a solid bet. If I'm wrong, I'll shop at Walmart for a month.

  • Randall M.

    Forgetting the grocery stores 'Yes! Organic' at 14th and V or 'Best DC Supermarket' at 15th and U?

    You wouldn't be the only one...

    If this happens... hoooray.

  • Janet

    You can shop at Walmart for years, if you want.

  • Lydia DePillis

    @Randall M.

    I did forget Yes! Organic--will add, thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/elcolin Colin

    Pretty sure they started demo at the 14th and U site yesterday.

  • AJ

    This is great news but I think they should go a little bit more east. There is literally no grocery store options as you head toward LeDroit Park/Shaw area. I like Best DC Market and honestly am so bothered by Yes! Organic Market... Why wouldn't they accept American Express!?

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

    AJ: It's a shame that the UPO building in LeDroit isn't a grocery anymore.

    Lydia: I remember that the rumors last year or the year before were that TJ's was looking at the "District Condo" building at 14th and S. Do you know what is going in there?

  • TKT

    No! They need to hold out for the Howard Town Center development so that I can easily walk there. Doesn't 14 and U have enough already!? So selfish.

  • Justin

    @Colin: Um...I work in one of the storefronts at 14th and U. Since I'm still here, I'm going to go out on a limb and state with confidence that no, demolition hasn't started yet.

  • StrangeFruit

    IMGoph,

    The UPO building in LeDroit Park was a grocery store until Safeway decided the location wasn't desirable anymore.

  • Jt

    I've been using Best DC Supermarket for odds-and-ends for years. It's great for those last-minute items. It saddens me to think about what a Trader Joes in this area will do to their small, locally-owned business.

  • er

    StrangeFruit, IMGoph,

    Also, that safeway was worse than the Shaw Giant. I don't know anyone that was really sad to see it go.

  • Chuck

    @AJ: Yes probably doesn't accept Amex for the same reason lots of retailers don't - their transaction fees are nearing extortion. I know when I worked for a small business, Visa and MC charged around 2.25% (that may well have changed by now). Amex was somewhere around 6%! When net retail margins are as thin as they are (especially in the consumables business), every bit counts.

  • Hi

    Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, and the 17th street Safeway are all pretty close by on foot. There is also the Citymarket at O which will house a brand new Safeway. So that's 4 supermarkets within a 10-15 minute walk of 14th and U, plus a number of smaller markets in the immediate vicinity. Also given the pattern of their other stores around the country, I think it's unlikely that two locations would open in a city the size of DC. I think this particular rumor is unlikely to come true. In major metropolitan areas, TJ's seems to support 1 store for every ~500,000 residents.

  • revitalizer

    @Hi,

    Safeway is not going in the Citymarket at O development. It will be a Giant.

    DC is a major metropolitan area, and your claim that TJ's seems to support 1 store for every 500,000 residents doesn't even hold true for the DC area with the amount of stores already here.

    Montgomery County, MD, with a population of 971,000 residents, has 3 Trader Joe's. That amounts to 1 store for every 323,000 residents.

  • Brianne

    I'll believe it when I see it Lyd!

  • Anon X

    So will you be apologizing to PoP now or later?

  • Hi

    @revitalizer, I stand corrected on the grocer, but the fact still remains that there are a lot of supermarket options within a walking distance of 14th and U.

    TJ's is not like CVS ... they aren't going to open a store simply because there is a lot of foot traffic and the space is there to occupy. Of course I hope to be proven wrong, as I love to shop at TJ's.

    I just find it a bit odd that this rumor is cropping back up considering that less than a year and a half ago, the company stated that opening a new store was not within its 2 year plan. That would have to be a pretty sharp about-face for the company for a company that has not even hinted that it's interested in opening up a new store in DC.

    In addition, the developer stated that it would try to preserve many or all of the local businesses that are already on the block.

  • http://facebook.com/UStreetNW U Street Buzz

    You don't need to be a retail expert to know that a TJ's near U Street would get a ton of business.

    Make it so.

  • D

    A TJs at this location will probably gross more than the one in Foggy Bottom. I realize that the company is very deliberate with its expansion plans, but an official announcement seems overdue considering how profitable a new DC store will likely be and how much residents have been pining for one.

    Also, good scoop by PoP. He's usually accurate and the first to admit it when he's not.

  • revitalizer

    @Hi

    The developer is seeking to preserve retailers (DC Noodles, etc) in the historic buildings on the north side of the parcel on U Street that are already there, not the ones lining 14th Street (formerly Taco Bell, KFC, Footlocker, etc).

    There will be 30,000 square feet of retail (20,000 square feet inside the new building and 10,000 square feet in the historic buildings).

    Opening a 10,000 to 15,000 square foot Trader Joe's is very doable while retaining possibly the ChiDog that used to be on the 14th St side.

    @Justin - it's very possible that demolition on the site has started even if you're still in a storefront on the north side of the parcel since those buildings are not going anywhere.

    As a matter of fact, here's a photo of the demolition occurring:
    http://www.princeofpetworth.com/2011/12/demo-starts-on-big-formerly-known-as-utopia-project-at-14th-and-u-st-nw/

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

    StrangeFruit: I realize the UPO building was a grocery store. That's why I said "It's a shame that the UPO building in LeDroit isn't a grocery anymore." Not sure why you felt the need to essentially repeat my comment back to me.

    Also, in response to both you and er, I just wanted to point out that the fact that the old store location wasn't "desirable," or that the store sucked as a Safeway is immaterial to my point.

    The demographics in the area have changed greatly since the store closed. There is much more money available in the area for a retailer to tap into. There's no reason a different retailer (TJ's, for example, but whomever is immaterial) couldn't make that space a profitable location that's a real amenity to the surrounding neighborhoods.

  • diggity

    i work at tjs, and i know 1.5 years they planned to go into that intersection, but the developed backed out. rumor as started again, but there is no definitive word,

  • diggity

    Also, i know for a fact that the company has been scouting for another dc location for years. tjs is picky and methodical about this process, searching for areas with high foot traffic, parking, and usually, close proximity to college campuses. They made a concession for the the new Clarendon store however, which has minimal parking.

  • Jno

    There is also the Smucker's Farm market on 14th now between V and W. So add that to the mix. Honestly I don't think we need a TJ's here. I live at 14andV and wish something non food related would open there. A JCrew would be nice or something of that ilk. PS-I love the Yes market and the people who work there.

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  • JT

    What happened to the Trader Joe's in Foggy Bottom?

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