- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2007

D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced a new study yesterday aimed at finding ways to increase the number of retailers serving the District’s neighborhoods.

“The residents of this city shouldn’t have to get in their cars or wait for a bus and head for the suburbs every time they want to go shopping,” Mr. Fenty said.

“The dollars are here, but the retail amenities need to catch up,” the mayor said. The goal is to make the city more attractive to local and national retailers, he said.

He was joined by leaders from the D.C. Office of Planning, including director Harriet Tregoning, an optimistic supporter of the citywide effort.

“In addition to our residents, we have 26 million tourists come to the District every year, so we can support a lot of retail in this city,” Miss Tregoning said.

She added that the study will analyze the market potential of 20 neighborhoods in the District and identify ways to enhance their capabilities.

Based on the results, the D.C. Office of Planning will offer incentives such as parking or rezoning that will help existing businesses grow and encourage larger retailers to set up shops.

But not everyone shares Miss Tregoning’s optimism.

“This won’t change the face of the District,” said Stephen Fuller, director of the center for regional analysis at the George Mason School of Public Policy.

“Most of the workers in the District commute from Maryland and Virginia, and when they go home at night, they take their money with them,” said Mr. Fuller.

“The District can’t compete with the offerings in the suburbs because they are supported by a much bigger market.”

Nevertheless, D.C. developers and neighborhood representatives are touting the mayor’s plan as a step in the right direction.

They met with the mayor and his staff at the 5800 block of Georgia Avenue, one of the study’s targeted markets.

Once the site of the Ibex nightclub, which was shut down in the 1990s after an officer was fatally shot outside, the intersection is beginning to see a revival.

Developers from the Neighborhood Development Company LLC are converting the site into the Lofts at Brightwood, a 32-unit, multimillion condominium complex with the area’s first upscale restaurant, the Meridian Restaurant and Bar.

A few blocks away, at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Taylor Road, the NDC is developing a 72-unit, affordable housing complex with its own organic market store.

“Right now, when you drive by Georgia Avenue it is one big blur. But five years from now I think this will be a community made with distinct housing, commercial and retail hubs,” said Marc Loud, executive director of the Gateway Georgia Avenue Revitalization Corp., a nonprofit community development corporation.

“This market is ripe, and with these projects you are beginning to see some tangible results,” Mr. Loud said.

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