Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Another Furniture Store for 14th Street?

Via DCist, we learn today of the potential arrival of yet another furniture retailer for 14th Street. Reportedly CB2--a less expensive cousin of Crate & Barrel--is in talks with Central Union Mission-building developer Jeffrey Schonberger to move into the as-yet-undeveloped space at 14th and R streets.

Although the deal has not yet been finalized, it would add another furniture retailer to an already crowded market (with places like Mitchell Gold and and Reincarnations to the south, and Vastu, Muleh and the soon-to-come Room and Board to the north, not to mention various antique and secondhand retailers scattered about).

The deal is contingent of course upon the Mission being able to relocate to proposed new quarters downtown in the Gales School building. Though the move was announced last year, complications have arisen stemming from the donation of the school property to the Mission, a religiously supported institution.

So what do you think--is this exciting news? On the one hand, in the current economy the fact that ANY retail tenants are being found to fill vacancies along the 14th Street corridor should be viewed as a net positive. The area on the east side of 14th Street between Q and S is largely a dead zone, and no doubt a national tenant of this caliber will aid that.

On the other hand, one of the positive attributes people frequently cite about 14th street is the unique retail and restaurant offerings. The corridor does have one of the most diverse markets in the city, and practically all of the retailers are independent boutiques. With Room and Board and now, potentially, CB2 entering the mix, there will be two rather significant retail frontages filled by national furniture chains.

We'll try to keep you up to date as plans for this move forward during the coming months.


Anonymous said...

I thought the Central Union Mission was a done deal to the Gales School? They were renovating Gales last I saw.

Anonymous said...

Oh sweet Jesus we're becoming a crappy outlet mall available anywhere. Time to move.

Anonymous said...

I can honestly say I would rather have a homeless shelter than the soul-less vanilla strip mall this neighborhood is becoming.

DAPPER VAN said...

cb2 is pretty awesome...much better than west elm for glassware and other niceties. i think it's a great thing for the 'hood - we'll still have plenty of independent retailers. there are worse things than becoming a burgeoning design district.

merlinkim said...

I used to live in Chicago, and am a big fan of CB2 -- however, if they move in, I fear for Home Rule, since they're selling the same sort of stuff, but with CB2 having a larger range.

Anonymous said...

I consider this a terrible irony. Close one of the few remaining missions in the city, and replace it with a furniture store, while the folks being displaced do not even have homes, much less the bland, overpriced sofas, dinner tables, etc. soon to be in the offing. I see not much sympathy here for those who quite recently depended heavily on the Central Mission. Where is their Mies Van Der Rohe leather knock-off lounger?

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

Anon, the Mission isn't closing, just moving. They're headed for a space downtown in a former school.

Anonymous said...

Would I rather have a locally owned furniture store instead of Crate & Barrel? Yes. But, is it realistic that we will get a locally owned furniture store that can fill a space that size? No, the world doesn't work that way anymore, unfortunately.

Would I rather have a homeless mission than a chain store? No, to be quite blunt. Give me the furniture store.

You know folks, the Mission and the entire blocks of public housing in the area (you can call it Section 8, if you want) were DUMPED on the neighborhood several decades ago when the idea was to put all the so-called undesirables in one place.

Now, before you start screaming, allow me to finish. I believe that public housing/Section 8 housing, homeless shelters, youth homes, etc. should be spread out across the city and in different neighborhoods.

It is quite unrealistic to think that you can put huge numbers of troubled people in a small area and then not have problems. The drug dealers in the neighborhood have a ready-made customer base in the homeless shelters. It's all too much for one neighborhood to absorb. (If you don't believe me, ask the police.)

Go ahead and scream at me. I am not some suburban right-wing troll. I live here and I am a liberal. But some things work and some things don't work.

Yes, this area should have its share of public housing, homeless shelters, etc. But other neighborhoods should have their share, too.

Anonymous said...

Why don't we just plop down a Walmart and speed up the inevitable transition of this neighborhood? You can say goodbye to all of the local risktakers like HomeRule, Vastu and Muleh that struggled to help make this area interesting and safe, but at least you'll have plenty of the same homogenized commodoties you could buy anywhere.

Clay Aiken's Half Brother's Friend said...

"WHy don't we plop down a WalMart" suggests that WE are plopping anything down. This isn't a communist state where the collective gets to decide whether something gets to exist. If you don't like it, don't go there! THere are many, many examples of areas where local businesses thrive together with chains. And before they were chains, they were almost always local businesses - Crate and Barrel included. THe contingent of people who hate successful businesses and/or ANY development is astonishing. Cue the whining about awhy can't this be a comedy club in 3....2....1....

Anonymous said...

Yeah, seriously. This is something that generates sales tax revenue. CUM (terrible acronym) is not being shut down, just moved to a new, arguably better location. If you don't like CB2, don't shop there! I won't be, but I am glad to see a store come in that will improve the city's fiscal base while contributing to the neighborhood's vitality. We're not talking about a wal-mart here; people don't want one and wal-mart knows that. CB2 is going to bring jobs and affordable knicknacks, so what? I think it's great that 14th street has a bit of an identity as a furniture corridor. That said, I'll still be shopping at Home Rule.

okienoodler said...

This is an absolute catatrophe. Businesses want to (gulp), come to our neighborhood? I sure wish the economic outlook for our "hood" was as good as the rest of the country. I want less business and more unemployment please.

And Clay Aiken's...whatever, I really don't like all of your logic mumbo-jumbo.

Anonymous said...

I've been wanting a CB2 to come to DC for years and I obsessively stalk their online web site looking for deals, so I'm excited. But others do make good points about the strip losing its character - I mean, do we really need another Georgetown in DC?

But still . . . so (selfishly) excited!

Anonymous said...

The independent shops will fare just fine because they are all selling to different tastes at different price points.

And I'm fine with more furniture stores moving in. What's wrong with 14th street becoming a one-stop-shop for your furniture needs? It will bring more people to the area, which will lead to other retail outlets and restaurants, even independent ones.

It seems like there is a lot of worry when similar businesses plan to open on 14th street. Why is that? It's not like 14th street is turning into some sort of Chinatown with 20 Chinese buffets, one after the other. Furniture/housewares, clothes, gyms, and good food/drink . . . that is what 14th street has. What more do you need to survive?

Anonymous said...

What's astonishing is that not wanting CB2 here is instantly equated with "hating successful businesses or any development". I love successful businesses and development. What I don't like is my unique neighborhood losing its character and becoming just like every other city or suburb. If you like CB2, shop it online. If you want an interesting unique neighborhood, support local businesses.

Anonymous said...

Local businesses can't afford to move into a space as large as the C.Mission building or the building Room and Board are taking over.

Home Rule, Pulp, Garden District, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Cork, Flowers on 14th, and all the other random pet stores, restaurants, and performing arts spaces aren't going to be threatened by more furniture stores coming into the neighborhood (merlinkim...have you ever actually gone into Home Rule? They sell home goods like funky plates, clocks and kitchenware, not tables and chairs).

So I join other commenters who don't understand why moving a homeless shelter to a different neighborhood and replacing that homeless shelter with a store (of any kind, frankly) is a negative for the neighborhood. First of all, I don't see you knuckleheads picketing in front of the McDonalds/Taco Bell/KFC at 14th & U every night after work, so what's with all this self-righteous rage against the corporate machine? Log off and do something about it...or maybe you leave the fast food places alone because you recognize that they provide affordable food options for the tenants of the Mission, so maybe that means that the presence of bland corporate outposts might have some utility in our neighborhood? Oh the inner conflict.

Listen, I feel for homeless people, but I'm absolutely psyched that the Mission is moving elsewhere. And I'm pretty sure that if people were using your fence as a public toilet EVERY SINGLE NIGHT (and your front walk/hedges as a receptacle for empty beer cans and fifths of vodka and whiskey) you might be a little more enthusiastic about the idea of the Mission continuing to serve the community from a different location, too. But let's be real, unless you actually live in the shelter or in the nearby lower-income housing, you didn't move to this neighborhood because those things are close by. You moved here because it's full of good restaurants and shops or because it's "up and coming." We'll here's a news flash: two more furniture stores moving spaces that are not particularly beneficial to the full-time residents of the neighborhood will not put the existing businesses out of business, and this is part of the "coming up."

The bottom line is that cities need commerce to survive and thrive. As long as the buildings don't be come an eyesore, having new retailers in the area will be a net benefit to the residents and other businesses in the area.

If you honestly think otherwise, feel free to head out to rural Virginia, buy yourself a piece of pastoral farmland and build a 20 foot fence around it. And have fun keepin' it real and corporation free. Otherwise, get over yourself and fight the real enemy: The too-tall-for-its-own-good U Street Hotel proposal.

Anonymous said...

"Otherwise, get over yourself and fight the real enemy: The too-tall-for-its-own-good U Street Hotel proposal."

Oh yes, that is the real enemy. They're seeking zoning approval for a 101' building, which would be approximately 20' higher than the Ellington and shorter than the recently approved Utopia project a block down the street.

So by all means, let's torpedo a project that is bringing an appropriate level of density to the 13th and U intersection (and much-needed daytime traffic) because we believe the extra 20' will destroy the neighborhood.

okienoodler said...

@Anoynomous 1:37

I don't understand why you think we are anti-business. It's just that we don't want more bars in the "hood." They are loud and full of drunks. And we definitely don't want more wine bars, those are over-priced and pretentious. While we're at it, no more corporate furniture stores, which are evil and ruin the uniqueness of the neighborhood. Did I mention we don't want condos? Those are for yuppies. Finally, we don't want anymore yoga studios, frozen yogurt or gelato stores, trendy gyms, over-priced burger stands, or dog parks. Why is that so hard for you to understand?

We just want the neighborhood to maintain its character - full of vacated storefronts, liquorstores, and pawnshops. So you and Mr. Milton Friedman can move to Bethesda cuz we don't like your kind around here.

Clay's Brother's Friend said...

ANonymous 1:14
"What I don't like is my unique neighborhood losing its character and becoming just like every other city or suburb"

Please name the other city, with a CB2, Mitchell Gold, and Room & Board, that you so loathe us becomeing, and explain why said city is so awful.

Is it out of the question that CB2 ****IS**** unique? Or does multiple locations automaticlly = suck? In which case, does Pulp suck since it has another location in Provincetown? Or do you just like complaining? Thought so

backatcha said...

"They're seeking zoning approval for a 101' building, which would be approximately 20' higher than the Ellington and shorter than the recently approved Utopia project a block down the street."

Sorry to take this thread off topic, but while the quoted point seems like a reasonable apples-to-apples comparison, it's not.

Have you ever walked BEHIND the Ellington? Take a walk back there tonight, and then take a walk down the alley behind the RiteAid.

If you do that, you might understand and appreciate why some of your neighbors are concerned about the impact of a 100 foot tall hotel. The reason no one is screaming about the Ellington is because NO ONE LIVES directly behind the Ellington. There's a wide alley and a sizeable park behind it.

Some of your neighbors actually live directly behind the RiteAid and that's why the proposed hotel (even if it was the same height as the Ellington) would have a different impact on the neighborhood than the Ellington currently does. Just because the Ellington and Utopia projects were approved, doesn't mean that your neighbors don't have a legitimate gripe about THIS project.

Look, I'm all for commercial progress (as my prior anonymous post suggests), but when there's a logical reason to question a developer's plans, we should stop and think about it.

Complaining about big companies moving into unused commercial space and worrying that they will drive local businesses away is agreeably silly. (Case in point: There's a Target and Bed Bath & Beyond up the street that sell greeting cards and home goods, but they haven't put Pulp or Home Rule out of business.)

Conversely, voicing concerns that the proposed hotel would ACTUALLY tower over my neighbor's homes when the space could be developed in profitable, yet more neighborhood-friendly way seems pretty legitimate to me. But before you criticize those who oppose this project, take a walk behind the Ellington and RiteAid buildings and imagine living in one of the houses on the north east side of Wallach Place, and THEN tell me if you still think your neighbors are being irrational obstructionists.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

I'm of the opinion that we should generally be happy that retailers are moving into the neighborhood and filling vacant storefronts. In this economy, that's certainly a good thing. Also, national chains can serve as catalysts for other development (witness Whole Foods on P Street.)

Here's the flipside, however. At last week's meeting of the 14th Street Arts Overlay Committee, it was mentioned that two 14th street retailers are very close to going out of business. It was not mentioned what these two were, but it's safe to assume that they're both independently owned shops. At Tuesday's meeting, we heard from View 14 developer David Franco (owner of Universal Gear) mentioned that he was having difficulty finding tenants for the 33K sq. feet of retail located in the building. The current climate is clearly making it difficult for independently owned non-restaurant/bar businesses to secure the financing they need to open up, which leaves a lot of vacant storefronts for the businesses who CAN secure financing: national chains.

Now, this doesn't mean chains are inherently bad or inferior. Nor does it mean that developers and landlords should simply sit on vacant properties, turning away potential national tenants while awaiting some local business to fill the slot. But it is important to recognize that the decisions being made today with regards to retail space vacancies will affect the neighborhood 5, 10 and 20 years down the road.

Mr. Other Upper NW said...

One final note: now that we've heard from both sides of the U Street Hotel issue, let's stick to the topic at hand please.

Anonymous said...

Those who fear for Home Rule and the other indies need only take a look at SoHo in NYC. Yes, there are plenty of national chains (R&B being one), but they draw customers that then frequent a large variety of independent stores that otherwise likely would fail. Having R&B and CB2 in the neighborhood will challenge some of our indies to adjust, no doubt, but if they are creative in their merchandizing, this will be a net win for them.

The Oracle said...

Welcome to capitalism my anti-cb2, anti-room and board, and anti-hotel friends. Where the rich get richer and big businesses thrive.

Here are your 3 options:

1. Stop losing sleep over it, and understand the type of system you are living in and accept it.

2. Get out of dodge

3. Instead of complaining about this big business or that big business, complain about your government.

Here try one of my fresh baked cookies.

Joel Lawson said...

What we're seeing is simply a natural retail and commerce evolution, esp. in an urban core. Personally, I'm agnostic/undecided on what larger stores can do to neighboring retail; much is dependent upon the context. Creating a de facto "furniture row" is a good thing in many, many ways, including as a draw to smaller retail. At the same time, chains do also risk migration of dollars away from independents.

The discussion appears to center around variety and authenticity v. chain entry. I'm not certain any efforts at control upon that dynamic can supersede the power of the marketplace. Is the former only now to be found in third-tier cities?

The marketplace shapes cities as a natural force, like water shaped the canyons.

Carly said...

"The marketplace shapes cities as a natural force, like water shaped the canyons."

How poetic. (Gag.)

Joel Lawson said...

Hey, I'm not saying it's good or bad, it just is. Carly: where is your house, why was it built where it was built, why was the nearest commercial corridor developed there? None of us are exactly camping in the virgin forest.

Carly said...

"Hey, I'm not saying it's good or bad, it just is... None of us are exactly camping in the virgin forest."

Wow, the 'zen-hip-speak' about market forces is far-out, man. Just readin' your post gives me the munchies.

Max said...


Your barbs are funny.

If you plan to frequent this blog, try lowering your expectations.

Anonymous said...

"If you plan to frequent this blog, try lowering your expectations."

Particularly when engaging some of the commenters.

Matt said...

I think Joel is trying to say that no matter how hard we might try, there is only so much you can do.

And, NO, I am not a conservative Republican. But DC is infamous for wanting to control everything. I have been to ANC meetings where the commissioners grilled the owner of a new restaurant about the menu. One got the impression that one or two of them would have voted against the establishment if they didn't like the choices.

I am not kidding. I was there.

This is what it is like to do business in DC.

HumblePupil said...

Dear Carly: please oh please instruct us on how to communicate here, what meets with your pleasure and so forth as this blog regarding community matters and urban planning really cannot thrive without it, we all know that discussions about zoning and parking and retail need snark to be meaningful.

Unknown said...

the best idea for that space is a hotel like ACE or Drake in Toronto that would be rooted in the art and music scene....hooked in with the galleries + black cat etc...would be such a kick ass addition to the the corridor and would attract a creative set

Anonymous said...


it's standard practice that abc applicants submit their concept, hours of operation, entertainment plans and MENU. commissioners typically ask about the plan, including the menu, so that the community can learn about the proposal.

Home Theater Seating said...

Close one of the few remaining missions in the city, and replace it with a furniture store, while the folks being displaced do not even have homes, much less the bland, overpriced sofas, dinner tables, etc. soon to be in the offing. I see not much sympathy here for those who quite recently depended heavily on the Central Mission. Where is their Mies Van Der Rohe leather knock-off lounger