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SIMMONS: Exacting cost for Costco’s arrival in D.C.

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Will Costco change its corporate community-benefits model to appease its new neighbors in Northeast Washington?

Senior citizens sure hope so as they gear up for a meeting with Costco representatives, city officials and other D.C. stakeholders scheduled for Saturday morning.

ANC Commissioner Bob King and an estimated 1,000 senior citizens who live in the Fort Lincoln neighborhood — an enclave of apartments and single-family homes, and the soon-to-be neighbors of Costco — already have their wish list together.

Their list is not extravagant — exercise equipment, buying-club power, Senior Olympics sponsorship, computers, a few free memberships here and there. Things to benefit seniors and other residents who live in the city as well as those who live in Fort Lincoln, which is bounded by South Dakota Avenue, Bladensburg Road and Eastern Avenue in Northeast.

Much on their wish list doesn't exactly fit inside Costco's generous donation box.

To wit, Costco's website says its donations do not directly fund government entities, individuals or political organizations, and that it doesn't give money directly to athletic teams, events or sponsorships, or to individual primary or secondary schools.

So not only does the seniors' list appear outside Costco's box, but even the wish list for Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, which is in Fort Lincoln, doesn't appear to make the cut.

Establishing a bona fide 501(c)(3) could aid requests.

But none of these parameters is deterring Mr. King and his voter-rich and very active band of constituents. They want Costco to set up shop in their neck of the Northeast woods, but with certain community benefits "so that these big-box retailers don't waltz through the community like Grant ran through Richmond," as Mr. King put it.

In addition to donations, seniors and other stakeholders have a long list of issues that they want ironed out.

"Traffic is the most important problem," said Mr. King, who pointed out that once Costco opens in November, shoppers will be flowing in from all around the city. He also pointed out that the site stands at the gateway to and from I-295, I-95 and Route 50, which means visitors and commuters will be pouring in from points well beyond the Beltway.

"There also are wetland issues with the proximity to the Anacostia River and [Costco's] gas station, and the potential draw [of additional traffic] with Costco's liquor license," he said.

The ANC commissioners will likely support Costco's bid to gain a license to sell liquor, which would be a first in the immediate D.C. region, but Mr. King said he also wants to ensure that Fort Lincoln and nearby residents are the first to benefit from jobs at Costco and other new retailers.

"We're having a job fair on July 28 so we can help identify people who don't have a job but want a job," said Mr. King. "And sure, we want gas [sold by Costco], but we want it done right because of wetland issues, and as you know, the [U.S. National] Arboretum will be a neighbor, too."

As for that wish list, which rubs against the grain of Costco's corporate model, Mr. King, whose political playbook has left lasting bruises on many D.C. politicos, doesn't take kindly to a second mention of the pointed issue.

"Who cares about their model," he stated emphatically. "Fort Lincoln wants Costco, and Costco wants Fort Lincoln. We know what we're giving them, but what are they going to give back?"

Some answers will be forthcoming Saturday morning at Mount Horeb Baptist Church, whose congregation believes in giving back to the community in more ways than one.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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