Monday, April 27, 2009

IHOP is Headed for Columbia Heights; the End is Near!

In case you missed it amidst all of the hubbub over this weekend's shootings and bank window bashing, it was announced that pancake/breakfast/high calorie eatery IHOP was planning to open up in the DC USA complex in Columbia Heights.

The 14thandyous don't get out to IHOP that often, but every once in awhile are tempted by the banana-walnut we look at this as basically a good thing. Also, the DC USA complex has more than it's share of shops masquerading as empty storefronts, so a casual, affordable sit-down eatery in the neighborhood shouldn't necessarily be viewed as a bad thing.

But that seems to be an opinion not shared, apparently, by a number of the commenting denizens of another local blog (which shall remain nameless). A sampling of the commentary revolving around this news tidbit:

"Kill me now."

"That is terrible news!"


"IHOP has no business being in CH."

"if IHOP is uprooting Ellwoods, that would be a public health and urban planning disaster."

"There goes the neighborhood again!!! Just when we were coming up in the world!"

"IHOP is low brow in my opinion. It appeals to a wide range of people, including the lowest common denominator of consumer."

It's really that last comment I want to focus on, because it was prefaced by this:

"For renters, (IHOP) increases the amenities for the hood. For the homeowners, I would think it decreases the trajectory a bit."

Translation: Homebuyers didn't pay $500,000 for a 2 bedroom luxury condo to live above a chain pancake shop, and they didn't pay that to have "the lowest common denominator" running around their neighborhood. (Although I'm willing to bet that if you took IHOP's menu and plastered it under the logo of some independent non-chain establishment with a name like "Syrup" and charged $4 more per item, the idea would go over like, um, hotcakes.)

So, where to begin? First of all, Columbia Heights isn't Dupont. It isn't "high brow". Simply having a handful of higher-priced independent eateries and a lucrative condo market doesn't make a neighborhood "high brow." Up until three years ago, Columbia Heights' commercial strip was little more than a mess of vacant storefronts, carryouts and otherwise unsavory activities. It may sound like a broken record to say this, but Columbia Heights has not become, overnight, the quintessential urban neighborhood. It has improved. A lot. A WHOLE lot, actually...but it's not Capitol Hill or Georgetown. And the presence of an IHOP is not somehow magically going to wreck its character.

Secondly, complaining about an IHOP taking the neighborhood on a "downward trajectory" rings a bit hollow when one considers that the DC USA complex contains businesses such as Target, Marshalls, Payless Shoes and Radio Shack. I would say that IHOP fits in quite well with the existing structure of the DC USA commercial environment.

Finally...why does every eatery opening up in central DC have to be some trendy, expensive independent place? Surprising as it may seem, not everyone can/wants to pay what it costs to dine out at a place such as The Heights on a consistent basis. Columbia Heights has more than its share of independent eateries serving all manner of cuisine--and introducing a low-cost diner-style restaurant into the mix isn't going to bring home values tumbling downwards (the open-air shootings will take care of that.)

In this market, it strikes me that we should be happy to see anyone signing a retail lease in a complex that has more than its share of vacancies. I, for one, would be quite content to have an IHOP-type establishment open in Logan, simply because there are so few cheap, casual dining options.

In other words, calm down...and enjoy your pancakes.


13th and U said...

Well said.

It doesn't add to the character of the neighborhood, but wow, you really see people's prejudices come out over an issue like this. I'd like to rant about how un-cool IHOP is but then again, I'd be there at least once a month with my kid, maybe more often (with my own maple syrup of course).

Mike said...

I'm with the 14th and Yous as well but mainly I couldn't resist this opportunity to plug the "pancake sandwich" at Bar Pilar on their brunch menu (now Saturdays too!). Since we lack an IHOP over here in Logan, I take my kids over there for breakfast and they are beside themselves with joy.

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows that IHOP is not hip, that's clear, but what I found so appealing about the improvements taking place in Columbia heights is that the neighborhood has benefited from all this new money. I wanted to think the best of all these new moneyed white folks, that they bought into this idea of a mid city, mixed income vibrant multicultural neighborhood. guess not. A couple years and folks are pushing for name changes "Tivoli North" and acting as though ONE new restaurant not catering to their yuppy desires and income bracket will be ruinous. F*ck that!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of IHOP (can't remember the last time I went), but would it be open 24hrs like a lot of IHOPs? That could come in handy.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...


Ican't speak to the operating hours here, but the IHOP in southeast DC isn't a 24 establishment. And given this area's penchant for launching into hysterics whenever the phrase "24 hours" is mentioned, I wouldn't bank on this one being 24 hours either.

IMGoph said...

the commentariat of that unnamed blog should never be looked upon as the primo example of rationality in the world, if you were to ask me (which you're clearly not).

here's what i think those negative comments are reflecting (stop me if you've heard this before):

people who aspire to live in someplace ritzy like georgetown, but can't afford the rents, move into an 'up-and-coming' neighborhood like columbia heights, thinking, "just a couple years, and this place will be georgetown II, and i'll have gotten in on the first floor."

then they realize that there can really only be one georgetown. they knew this all along, but they were trying to delude themselves with the belief that they would be able to someday profit, financially, socially, and emotionally from riding the gentrification wave before it crests.

when this leads to things like 'IHOP' or 'marshalls' moving into the neighborhood, they raise a stink, and try to act angry about the offensiveness of having to be located near things meant for the peasantry. the funny thing is, they used to frequent these places in their former lives, before they dedicated themselves to the dream of being one of those ritzy folk over in georgetown.

eventually, they move up in the corporate world, and make enough money to move into an established upper-crust neighborhood. they'll tell their new neighbors about the time they spent 'slumming it' in 'the hood', never revealing that the neighborhood they're now willing to joke and laugh about didn't need, and doesn't want, their arrogance anyway.

of course, i could be wrong...

Jamie said...

Replace "IHOP" with "Ruby Tuesday." This is so two years ago.

I think something is better than nothing. And as you note, if they are serving 24 hours I can guarantee you I'll be a patron. More storefronts = more foot traffic no matter what. It's good for the neighborhood.

Unknown said...

Hear hear, 14andyou!

Sam Brownell said...

You forgot to mention that Panda Express is already in DCUSA or whatever that strip mall is called and that most certainly beats out IHOP as a place for "the lowest rung of consumers" (I love Panda).

Anonymous said...

I agree! Well said.

Cheights is not Dupont. I do have to say though, there are a whole lot of gays and lesbians running around at the Washington Sports Club and Commonwealth!

Jennifer said...

I'm surprised "Syrup" doesn't already exist. You're sitting on a gold mine.

JoshInDC said...

Loved the "Syrup" thought. Well said.