Stores and the City
Many cities launched revival efforts with downtown festival marketplaces such as Boston’s Faneuil Hall. Can retailers work the same magic in less affluent neighborhoods?
Pennsylvania Avenue is one of America’s most iconic streets. But if you follow it a few miles east of the White House and across the Anacostia River, you will find yourself in a very different world. The avenue is lined with gas stations, check-cashing shops, and takeout restaurants that serve the area’s predominantly African-American population. Many of the storefronts are faded and worn, and it’s often difficult to tell whether a functioning business operates inside. Few people stroll the sidewalks.
You wouldn’t know it from looking at this stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue, but the District of Columbia was recently ranked among the top cities in the United States for retail development by Marcus and Millichap, a national real estate advisory firm. The District’s downtown has boomed recently, with 54 restaurants and many stores opening since 2007, along with new office and apartment buildings. But the 130,000 Washingtonians who live east of the Anacostia are served by only four sit-down restaurants. The unemployment rates in the area’s two wards are roughly 19 and 30 percent, compared with a District average of 10 percent. A third of the residents live below the poverty level.
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David Zipper is director of business development and strategy in the District of Columbia’s Deputy Mayor’s Office. He previously served in New York City government as executive director of NYC Business Solutions and was a senior associate at the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City.more from this author >>
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