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The U Street Shuffle


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And when the real estate prices on U St. increase then Benetton, Gap,and the Banana Republic type of stores will be the only ones that can afford the rent.  If the area attracts the crowds the chains will surely start popping up.  Just give it time.

Just like Georgetown, just like Dupont Circle...

I'm in agreement with crackers, above. I'm not sure how old you are, Mr. TasteDC, or how long you've been in Washington, but believe it or not Georgetown once had that "urban" trendy feel you ascribe to U St. Little art galleries, head shops, funky clothing and shoe stores, trendy clubs (anyone remember Poseurs?), independent restaurants, etc. It drew crowds, rents went up, and next thing you know it's chain stores as far as the eye can see. Same with Dupont. Friends of mine just sold their condo on the 1700 block of U for 3 times what they bought it for in '92. It's only a matter of time before the Gap and Potbelly move in.

And since when is anyplace with a dress code cool? I'm reminded of Limelight circa 1986... :lol:

Edited by Heather
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Just like Georgetown, just like Dupont Circle...

(anyone remember Poseurs?),

Let me pose you a question - were you on U Street 15 years ago before all the revitalization? I was, not bragging, but I saw what was there and laugh now, but I personally rented KFC/Taco Bell there space there (shoot me now!), I was a commercial real estate agent...and guess who leased the NW corner of 14th and U but never moved in...drum roll please...Burger King!

Burger King - Have It Your Way!

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I have been in around Washington for 25 years - 20 years ago I was living in Adams Morgan when it was not the mostly gentrified place it is now. I know what U Street was like back then.

I wasn't talking about fast food. Fast food is everywhere. I was referring to the more upscale, shopping mall chains - clothes and food - which have thoroughly swallowed Georgetown and are oozing their way East and North of Dupont. U Street 5 years ago was still somewhat edgy. It's fast becoming a place where yupsters live and shop. I'm not saying it's bad, just inevitable.

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Let me pose you a question  - were you on U Street 15 years ago before all the revitalization?  I was, and guess who leased the NW corner of 14th and U but never moved in...drum roll please...Burger King!
I was around then (or not long after that) and remember well what U Street used to be like (much like I remember what Clarendon used to be like - Amdo/Roratonga/Strangeways anyone?). I have mixed feelings about 'gentrification', but isn't it nice to be able to walk from 14th Street to the 930 Club and feel (relatively) safe, much less have many, many options for dinner before a show or a drink after? That wasn't the case when 930 first moved from downtown ( :P we won't go there....) or when my friend was living in a walk-up a few doors down from the Black Cat in the mid 90s. 14th and U was kind of on the edge 10-15 years ago.

But - since you were there - what WAS the name of that bar that was upstairs at the property you mention, say around 1994-95? I used to go there with friends who have long since left town and I just can't remember - Mountain Lodge?? It was certainly not a trendy place, just a bar with relatively cheap drinks, decent music, and comfortable seating.

I just hope there's room for some of the old to fit in with the new that is coming. Clarendon's managed to do that, but even there I wonder how long it can last.... :lol:

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At the risk of getting too political here....

In an area like U Street, there is a huge amount of money available for the big developers to do their thing. DC has a well documented "Old Boys" network among the inner circle of developers who can get endless money for their projects. For a small business just starting out, the only way to get money (thru the DC gov't programs or the SBA) is to both own the building and to open the business (or to have so much net worth that the financing is not necessary).

So if you are our imaginary developer, say your name is Norman J just for sake of argument, and you are pretty tight with Mr. W and all the big development guys and you are getting a ton of tax breaks and subsidized to renovate a building on U Street into condos and mixed use, who do you wanna have as a tenant? Charbucks or a couple of coffee heads who love their product and have some money together to put up a coffee house (even if they are opening the next Tryst)? Potbelley or someone opening their first restaurant? A quirky retailer or Pottery-Restoration-Sonoma-Barrel-Barn? Of course you want the safe money. And I don't blame the developers for doing what they do. I just don't like it.

Now look at some neighborhoods that are much more entrepreneurial and have avoided the huge mixed use "redevelopment" system, like Tenley Town, Cleveland Park and Capitol Hill. Much smaller scale development, much more home grown business. Also these neighborhoods have very active ANC's and are active communities. Some business people will complain about how hard it is to do business in these neighborhoods.

Its been said that America has the best government that money can buy. But there are real differences in the results that result!

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At the risk of getting too political here....

In an area like U Street, there is a huge amount of money available for the big developers to do their thing.  DC has a well documented "Old Boys" network among the inner circle of developers who can get endless money for their projects. For a small business just starting out, the only way to get money (thru the DC gov't programs or the SBA) is to both own the building and to open the business (or to have so much net worth that the financing is not necessary). 

So if you are our imaginary developer, say your name is Norman J just for sake of argument, and you are pretty tight with Mr. W and all the big development guys and you are getting a ton of tax breaks and subsidized to renovate a building on U Street into condos and mixed use, who do you wanna have as a tenant?  Charbucks or a couple of coffee heads who love their product and have some money together to put up a coffee house (even if they are opening the next Tryst)?  Potbelley or someone opening their first restaurant?  A quirky retailer or Pottery-Restoration-Sonoma-Barrel-Barn?  Of course you want the safe money.  And I don't blame the developers for doing what they do.  I just don't like it. 

Now look at some neighborhoods that are much more entrepreneurial and have avoided the huge mixed use "redevelopment" system, like Tenley Town, Cleveland Park and Capitol Hill.  Much smaller scale development, much more home grown business.  Also these neighborhoods have very active ANC's and are active communities.  Some business people will complain about how hard it is to do business in these neighborhoods. 

Its been said that America has the best government that money can buy.  But there are real differences in the results that result!

I lived in Capitol Hill for almost 10 years and have worked here since 1991.

I remember when the Wiz closed. Magruders wanted to come in with a small grocery store.

The ANC blocked it for reasons I can no longer remember. That property stood empty for YEARS.

Now we have Cosi. What a great addition to the neighborhood and right across from Starbucks.

Kinkos closes and we get another bank. The ancient Japanse place and the dry cleaners close and we get another bank. One thing I know, I'm never going to be short of an ATM machine.... I may not have decent, affordable lunch options within walking distance that I'm not so totally sick of my head's going to explode, but I can get money out of the bank...

Sigh...

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  That wasn't the case when 930 first moved from downtown ( :lol: we won't go there....)

And why did the 9:30 Club move? Same process. That's another neighborhood that used to be, for lack of a better word, "edgy". The "Penn Quarter" had weird little art galleries, clubs like DC Space, Insect Club, 9:30, etc., the Chinatown shops and restaurants. Then the MCI center was in the works and the big developers moved in ... Jaleo opened, condos went up, the Shakespeare Theatre relocated, and suddenly it's just another yupscale neighborhood complete with it's own ridiculously contrived nickname.

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And why did the 9:30 Club move? Same process. That's another neighborhood that used to be, for lack of a better word, "edgy".

I don't think gentrification was the prime motivation for their move - their new space was much, much better for staff, fans and bands alike....

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I lived in Capitol Hill for almost 10 years and have worked here since 1991.

I remember when the Wiz closed.  Magruders wanted to come in with a small grocery store.

The ANC blocked it for reasons I can no longer remember.  That property stood empty for YEARS.

Now we have Cosi.  What a great addition to the neighborhood and right across from Starbucks.

Kinkos closes and we get another bank.  The ancient Japanse place and the dry cleaners close and we get another bank.  One thing I know, I'm never going to be short of an ATM machine....  I may not have decent, affordable lunch options within walking distance that I'm not so totally sick of my head's going to explode, but I can get money out of the bank...

Sigh...

At least on the Hill when they redeveloped 8th Street almost every (all?) new business that opened was small and independent, in fact the only national chains that are on 8th have been there since pre-redevelopment (Subway, Blockbuster, Popeyes etc.).

Of course it will be interesting to see what happens when the new condos along Penn ave open (Jenkins Row especially) and what shops they put in. Harris Teeters should be a bonus since our Safeway sucks, but is Pot Belly that far off?

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Call me the eternal optimist, but let's not overlook all the locals opening very successful businesses in the neighborhood. Yes, the Gap may make its way over evetually (Storehouse has), but of any neighborhood in the city, U St. has more new businesses from new local businessowners: Ron at Pulp, Sheila at Pop, Shelley at Pink November, Eric at Vastu, Chef T at Creme, Mike at Saint-Ex and Bar Pilar, Warren at Cake Love, Melih and Omer at Tabaq, Jackie at Nana...and don't forget the established players like Ben's, Meeps, the Saloon, Dukem, etc.

The neighborhood is extremely loyal to these businesses, and the way I see it, they always will be, Cosi or no Cosi, Gap or no Gap.

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I don't think gentrification was the prime motivation for their move - their new space was much, much better for staff, fans and bands alike....

I am sure the much cheaper rent by Howard played a part too. It enable them to dramatically increase their capacity and revenues. They could not have afforded a similar sized space in their old location.

The neighborhood is extremely loyal to these businesses, and the way I see it, they always will be, Cosi or no Cosi, Gap or no Gap.

Time will tell.

Edited by Heather
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I am sure the much cheaper rent by Howard played a part too.  It enable them to dramatically increase their capacity and revenues.  They could not have afforded a similar sized space in their old location.

Time will tell.

The entire building housing the 9:30 -- The Atlantis Building -- was torn down (save the facade). Rent and location were moot; there weren't no place left to play.

(Rumors that the smell of the place caused the building to collapse are unfounded)

Edited by Waitman
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The entire building housing the 9:30 -- The Atlantis Building -- was torn down (save the facade).  Rent and location were moot; there weren't no place left to play.

(Rumors that the smell of the place caused the building to collapse are unfounded)

I always imagined the pole that sat smack dab in front of the stage was the lynchpin that would bring the entire structure down. I saw no other reason for it's existence, except to provide an entertaining sidebar during the show as people shoved each other to see around it. Or when the mosh pit started up and some poor schlub who didn't know better got sent flying headfirst into it. The padding usually didn't help all that much. But, yeah, the basement stench was often overpowewring.

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The entire building housing the 9:30 -- The Atlantis Building -- was torn down (save the facade).  Rent and location were moot; there weren't no place left to play.

Well sure, whoever owns that piece of property can do something way more profitable with it now that the neighborhood is less crappy and dangerous.

(Rumors that the smell of the place caused the building to collapse are unfounded)
:lol:

I would be leery of buying a condo on that site. Nothing short of exorcism would get the foul miasma to leave the area.

(Slightly off topic: the smell has migrated to their bar at Meriweather Post Pavilion. No joke)

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Are you including OOHS and AAHS in this assessment of the neighborhood?

No. Oohhs and Aahhs seems to be the western terminus of good food on U Street. West of that, you've got a lame highlight film consisting of Mocha Hut, Busboys and Poets, Tabaq, Ben's Chili Bowl, Al Crostino, Polly's, Islander, Coppi's, Love Cafe, Health Bar, all having their charms and none of which are so individually awful, but let's not make U Street out to be anything short of painfully mediocre as a food group. Adams Morgan has Cashion's Eat Place, Bethesda has Grapeseed and Persimmon, Silver Spring has Ceviche and Sergio (granted, a pretty weak couplet), Crystal City has Oyamel, hell even Barrack's Row has Belga Cafe, all of which fall into the 'decent-to-good' category (Cashion's is merely 'good' these days), and any of which could act as a minor anchor (Oyamel is a major anchor) for their respective neighborhoods, but U Street has no real strength or focus at all, similar to Woodley Park and Mount Pleasant, and yet it's the hottest topic in town.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Just like Georgetown, just like Dupont Circle...

believe it or not Georgetown once had that "urban" trendy feel you ascribe to U St. Little art galleries, head shops, funky clothing and shoe stores, trendy clubs (anyone remember Poseurs?), independent restaurants, etc. It drew crowds, rents went up, and next thing you know it's chain stores as far as the eye can see. Same with Dupont. Friends of mine just sold their condo on the 1700 block of U for 3 times what they bought it for in '92. It's only a matter of time before the Gap and Potbelly move in.

The WaPo yesterday had a timely article on gentrification [with cool, clickable panoramic sweeps of views from 2000 compared to now].

"Since 1991, the number of national chain stores along Connecticut Avenue, Dupont's main commercial strip, has surged. A count by The Washington Post, using old directories and other references, showed 61 independent stores and three national chains in 1991 along the three blocks of Connecticut north of Dupont Circle. Today there are 39 independents and 18 national chains.

The shift has been gradual, but chains now span the entire length of the corridor, from the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop at the south end of the circle to the Buca di Beppo restaurant at the top of the hill near Florida Avenue. The four Starbucks stores are clustered within three blocks of the circle, and Comfort One Shoes, a local chain, has three stores in the 1600 block of Connecticut."

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I always imagined the pole that sat smack dab in front of the stage was the lynchpin that would bring the entire structure down. I saw no other reason for it's existence, except to provide an entertaining sidebar during the show as people shoved each other to see around it. Or when the mosh pit started up and some poor schlub who didn't know better got sent flying headfirst into it. The padding usually didn't help all that much. But, yeah, the basement stench was often overpowewring.

LOL, speaking of that pole, I understand that when Einsturzende Neubaten played, one of the band members started wailing on that pole with a jackhammer! Until the proprietor intervened.

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No. Oohhs and Aahhs seems to be the western terminus of good food on U Street. West of that, you've got a lame highlight film consisting of Mocha Hut, Busboys and Poets, Tabaq, Ben's Chili Bowl, Al Crostino, Polly's, Islander, Coppi's, Love Cafe, Health Bar, all having their charms and none of which are so individually awful, but let's not make U Street out to be anything short of painfully mediocre as a food group. Adams Morgan has Cashion's Eat Place, Bethesda has Grapeseed and Persimmon, Silver Spring has Ceviche and Sergio (granted, a pretty weak couplet), Crystal City has Oyamel, hell even Barrack's Row has Belga Cafe, all of which fall into the 'decent-to-good' category (Cashion's is merely 'good' these days), and any of which could act as a minor anchor (Oyamel is a major anchor) for their respective neighborhoods, but U Street has no real strength or focus at all, similar to Woodley Park and Mount Pleasant, and yet it's the hottest topic in town.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Dredging up an old thread...I find this comment by Rocks interesting. Don, do you still stand by this assessment?

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Dredging up an old thread...I find this comment by Rocks interesting. Don, do you still stand by this assessment?

I'm not as current as I need to be, but just last night I had really good empanadas at Chi-Cha lounge, and an excellent pizza at Local 16 (and I'm pretty sure, based on its appearance, that Edan was not working).

Even six years ago, the statement was incorrect - Coppi's had (and may still have) pretty darned good pizza.

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Mostly, U Street is becoming the area to go to, if you want to meet cool kids

from Woodbridge. The blocks of 14th Street North of P (NOP) are developing in ways

no could have imagined a few years ago. Estudio, Saint Ex, Bar Pilar and Cork each

have a following. The theaters and the Mission emit some kind of ray to repell

the riff-raff.

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I wasn't working last night, but I did make that dough. Its a refrigerated fermentation of several days with an old dough addition. Which pizza did you have?

(I'm tapping this in on my cellphone from La Sandia.)

Oh, I was quite certain that you had a hand (no pun intended) in the dough - it was awesome. But I was also pretty sure you didn't prep (big onion slices) or distribute (one nugget of sausage per slice, piquillos skewed towards center) the toppings, or man the oven (overall appearance was blanched). But a great pizza due to the dough alone (the Aden, in case you haven't figured it out). :)

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U Street has some great food but we are also about to be inundated with some local chains like Matchbox and Orange and Black burgers.

As a long time resident (since 1988), I wish we just attracted individual restos like Cork and Estadio and Pearl Dive and Bar Pilar, etc. Everyone wants to be on 14th Street now, including local chains. And I am heart sick that the iconic building on the NE corner of 14th and U became a Subway and a doughnut shop We have been waiting YEARS for that to attract an incredible restaurant. Very disappointing.

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