I’ve gotten caught up lately, as have many others, with all the excitement over the re-opening of the renovated Howard Theatre. This new destination is going to bring a lot of people into the neighborhood. This is not only going to incent new businesses to open in the area but also most likely going to drive property values up.
This got me thinking about many of the neighborhoods in DC that have already been revitalized and those that are in the process of being revitalized. In almost all cases there has been a marriage between residential revitilization and business/commercial revitilization. In some cases it’s hard to tell which came first, the residential or the commercial revitilization. Sort of the chicken or the egg – move more residents in and businesses will follow or open up the right businesses and the residents will follow.
I think back to Logan Circle and when there was a large movement of renovations underway. The residents banded together and petitioned Whole Foods to open up a store there. Ultimately Whole Foods did and the rest is history. Whole Foods’ opening there was a key event in helping make Logan Circle what it is today.
There are so many examples of neighborhoods and businesses that developed symbiotic relationships that shaped the culture and lansdcape of a neighborhood. Some spanning decades while others just a few short months. I think of examples like Eastern Market and Capitol Hill, the Verizon Center and Penn Quarter, Adams Morgan and the 18th Street corridor and on and on. Nationals Stadium is an example of a work in progress as also is the H-Street corridor in North East.
From the perspective of a home buyer is there a way to be able to learn more about a neighborhood by understanding the relationship of a certain business or group of businesses. I think there is. For example on any given weekend day one can see a huge number of the residents of Chevy Chase DC come through Broad Branch market. Chat with almost any random customer and you’ll be able get almost all your questions answered about the neighborhood from the residents who live there. On a smaller yet similar case hang out at Big Bear Cafe in Bloomingdale and you’ll be able to strike up a conversation with one of the recent neighborhood transplants.
So if you are trying to get a feel for a neighborhood search out those neighborhood hang out joints (in most cases it will be a mom and pop operation) and immerse yourself in the experience. Talk to as many of the customers that you can and you’ll be amazed at what you learn.
So which came first the chicken or the egg, the resident or the shop owner? It does not really matter just as long as they both came along for the ride and are getting along.