7.16.2009

What recession? 14th Street to become 'wine and furniture' district

14th Street, which as recently as the early zero's a "seedy area," is in full renaissance blossom. From P Street up now to around V Street, you've got a bustling commercial strip. This is, no doubt, a good thing. With the addition of the new Circulator route, the Logan Circle area is even more accessible to the masses.

However, I'm very close to naming 14th Street DC's new "trend district."

In the span of a little over a year, the area from 14th & P up to V Street has seen massive growth. Cork opened. Policy opened. Bang and Olfsen opened. Has anyone in the universe actually bought anything from Bang and Olfsen? It's like adding three extra zeroes to everything in a SkyMall Catalog. $900 telephone? Sure, why not? I feel for them though, their only customer just started serving a 150-year sentence in federal prison. Also in recent memory, we saw Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams move in. Eatonville opened across from Busboys and Poets. Marvin and the Gibson threw their hat in the rings as well.

But what's next? Well, Cork is opening a wine and cheese market next door to the Black Cat. Also opening on that strip near Bar Pilar and St. Ex will be some other sort of fusion tapas small plates designer cocktails possible DJ nights spot. But don't forget, it's mere steps away from the site of multiple homicides in the last year.

And what's that? In addition to Vastu, Muleh, and that other furniture store that's been there for decades (by the outdated post office), we might be getting a Crate and Barrel "CB2." This is, of course, also in addition to Room and Board.

Oh and if you were upset that you only have the wine bar at Cork, and the wine bar at Posto, there will be another wine bar at 14th and Church (stone's throw from Posto) called "Cork and Fork." Yeah, that's right, Cork will have their wine bar and a market, and then a completely different company will have a place called Cork and Fork just blocks from Cork.

Are we confused yet?

Don't worry, if you are still worried there aren't enough bars on 14th, just wait for Local 14, the latest iteration of Local 16. Also keep your eyes peeled for Local 11, you guessed it, on 11th Street. Maybe they can compete with "Stab You Next Tuesday," now featured at Wonderland Ballroom at 11th and Kenyon.

Oh, and if that's still not enough wine bars, lookout for Dickson Wine Bar over near Nellie's and DC9 at 9th and U.

I'm not questioning that economic development is a Good Thing(TM) for Logan Circle. However, I am left wondering how many of the SAME EXACT THING the area can sustain. We've got about 15 furniture stores, most of which are going to sell things in the obscenely expensive price range. $500 for a kitchen chair? Sold. It's like that bizarre furniture store in Ballston Mall that wants $5k for a crappy diner booth style kitchen table. No one ever shops in that store, it doesn't even have a real sign, but it's been there for years. Something isn't right. Like those stores that just sell knives. Creepy.

And what else? Well, we're packing all sorts of things into an area full of people who whine about said things, and an ANC area that's filled with people who love drama. Sprinkle in a little bit of the "14th Street Arts Overlay District" and you've got a situation ripe for dissent. We might have outright protests. And if not protests, at least more roving gangs of youths robbing and beating store owners.

In fact, it's amusing to even have something called the 14th Street Arts District. You've got Studio Theatre. That's about it. Source installed itself up by Manny and Olga's, but that's it. Nothing in between, unless you count the ANC drama and the crime in the public housing as "theatre." Studio prides itself on owning the redevelopment of 14th, but I don't recall them being experts in expensive furniture. (Save me the speech on the history of 14th Street. Tell me what you've done recently.)

It's now the 14th Street Wine and Furniture District. In fact, moving forward, there should be non-binding regulation that no more than 25% of storefronts be anything other than wine bars or furniture stores. We'll allow home good stores as well, so Home Rule, Go Mama Go, Garden District, and Logan Hardware are OK for now. Pitango Gelato and the ACKC Chocolate Bar can stay, those are very trendy. Bookstores and coffeeshops are non-starters (e.g. vaporware coffeeshop above Miss Pixie's). Moderately priced eating establishments are also relics of a time when businesses catered to 'the other half.'

How will 14th Street fair in 5 years, if wine bars and obscenely expensive furniture are no longer trendy? What if the naysayers are right and the big O can't stimulate the economy enough, and even Jon Faverau won't be able to write himself out of a bagging job at the Soviet Safeway?

7 comments:

  1. I still want to know when that beer bar will open in the space Dakota Cowgirl used to occupy.

    Also, I've never seen someone step into Bang and Olufsen, let alone inside.

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  2. You're going to be seeing a lot of empty store fronts on 14th Street in 5 years.

    Good call on Dakota Cowgirl. What's the deal with that place?

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  3. There may only be two theaters, but there are also at least a couple of galleries and a couple of live music venues (including HR-57). So "arts district" doesn't seem too off-base.

    And while I agree that we don't need so many wine bars, a concentration of any one kind of retail is a good thing -- an area becomes a magnet for shoppers when they know they'll have more choices in that area. There's a reason 8th Street in NYC is full of shoe stores, or why there's an intersection in the Lower East Side where every corner is occupied by a kitchen supply store. So having multiple furniture stores should be a good thing for all of them.

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  4. There are furniture-store districts in every major city in the country that have far more than 15 stores and they have sustained for years. Speculating that DC can't handle such an area of its own is baseless.

    And the store isn't called "Crate and Barrel CB2". It is just "CB2". The ownership is irrelevant, just as West Elm isn't "Williams Sonoma West Elm".

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  5. There aren't just a "couple of galleries," there are at least seven I can think of off the top of my head. Plus two frame shops and a number of artists' studios--all of which are included in the definition of the Arts Overlay.

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  6. AnonymousJuly 22, 2009

    Good information, but let the market decide what the neighborhoods can sustain.

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