By Stephen Cochran
We’ve all been here. It’s one of those places where we hand over $1 billion shopping dollars each year to Maryland or Virginia. If even half of that money could be spent in DC, our 6% tax rate would generate $30 million in revenue. That’s enough to supply 300 new affordable housing units, or pay for the education of 1600 District children, every single year.
The city has been working for decades to reverse this loss of dollars, and we’re starting to see results. Larger retailers are moving into the District to supplement our local stores. Some are bringing new designs that fit in with, and bring new life to, our traditional neighborhood centers. Others, unfortunately, continue to bulldoze trees, fill in wetlands, or construct stone-walled mesas so they can just replicate their suburban stores.
Planners need to provide models of how major retailers can come into the city without compromising good design and active street life.
This storefront I saw on Broadway in downtown L.A. shows how to do it: name recognition, openness to the street, pedestrian and bicycles friendliness, and a broad selection of brand goods at every-day low prices.
Having a vital shopping street need not take a zoning overlay, or city subsidies; just some creative entrepreneurs, sensitivity to scale … and a lot of red paint.