Ever since the recent announcement that dry cleaners at 14th and Q streets would be closing, rumors have been swirling about what may swoop in to take its place. A recent poll over at Borderstan presents a snapshot of the pulse of the neighborhood, and the type of businesses that people would like to see here (affordable food, please).
Recently, 14thandyou caught up with Linda Welch, self-proclaimed "serial entrepreneur" and owner of such neighborhood businesses as Green Pets and Big Monkey Comics, about what she would like to do with the sought-after space at 14th and Q.
After the closing of Sparky's in 2007, Welch told us, she aimed to replace its presence in the neighborhood with a breakfast/sandwich-type establishment. There's no shortage of places to have a glass of wine and a plate of gourmet cheese, but as Linda said, "I just wanted a place I could have pancakes any time of day!" Mr. and Mrs. 14thandyou would be in hearty agreement there.
Thus, Linda sought out to explore the interest in such a neighborhood gathering spot. What she found, largely through the development of online community Elements (with help from friend Neil Takemoto), was strong community interest in the development of a neighborhood-themed establishment serving vegetarian/vegan/raw food.
The plans for the project are quite substantial: over 6500 square feet in total along with an outdoor space and a LEED-certified building, featuring the aforementioned vegetarian/raw food menu, "holistic" pet food, a "teaching space" including books about gardening and cooking, and a non-alcoholic "night bar" featuring organic juice and coffee.
In addition, Welch says, she would like to make the spot a true "community space," including serving as host to programs for inner city youth.
Welch recognizes that taking the project from paper to reality will require more than just big plans. To begin, the dry cleaners space is a premium location in the neighborhood, and competition for the space will be heated. Welch has held conversations with building owner John Assadoorian about her idea, who is--according to Welch--"interested in the project." However, others rumored to be interested include Constantine Stavropolous, owner of The Diner in Adams-Morgan, who was reportedly looking at the spot as a potential location for a new diner.
Others aren't certain that any kind of restaurant will open up in the space, which will require environmental cleanup due to the fact that a dry cleaners occupied the site for so long--which is further hampered by the presence of a creek running underneath the property, which will make clean-up that much more costly. (Local restauranteur Barton Seaver indicated that he rejected the space due to, among other factors, the anticipated clean-up costs.) Some feel that a non-restaurant national retailer may in turn be a better fit for the space. (Walgreens, anyone?)
Still, Welch is undeterred. She is currently searching for funding sources for the project, and plans to continue drawing interest through the Elements website.
"I think [this project] is sorely needed in this area," she said.
What ultimately happens at the site is, for now, anyone's guess.