Last month, developers unveiled rough plans to redevelop the Safeway at Georgia and Reedie across from the Wheaton Metro, building five hundred apartments in a fourteen-story building atop a new supermarket. Understandably, local residents have had a lot of concerns about the project. The Good Eatin' in Wheaton blog notes that there isn't another building nearly as tall in the business district.
People have the right to be skeptical about any new development in Wheaton after twenty years of talk, an art-house theatre that shut down after two months, and fears that it'll become "another Silver Spring." To some, the number of proposed apartments seems too high. But as David Alpert of GGW pointed out on the Kojo Nnamdi Show yesterday, businesses need a critical mass of people to survive. Downtown Wheaton doesn't have the reputation or accessibility to rely on car traffic like it did in the 1950's. There have to be more people in the neighborhood who can walk to local shops.
The developer's precedent for the Georgia and Reedie proposal can be found nine Metro stops away at CityVista, a new development in
Retail space in new apartment towers is hard to fill, and often goes to uses that don't create foot traffic. Real estate firm Edens & Avant (who also own the Burtonsville Crossing shopping center) have made CityVista a destination with local businesses like the popular restaurant/bar Busboys and Poets, 5th Street Hardware (a locally-owned franchise of Ace Hardware), and Taylor Gourmet, perhaps the only deli that's been lauded both for its food and its architecture.
You and I may not be able to put down $400k on a one-bedroom condominium here. But we can pretend like we can while patronizing businesses unique to D.C. The size may not seem like an obvious fit for Wheaton, but CityVista's celebration of local retailers sounds pretty appropriate for its business district.
Check out this photoset of CityVista in the District.
Public art is also a part of the City Vista complex. A sculpture called "Lift Off" by David Block will be installed later this year.
So, will the fancy new Safeway come with new clientele to purchase the upscale items and more than one open checkout lane?
Or, will all of those spaces wind up being subsidized for people who need "affordable space"?
In any case, with all of the foreclosed/distressed properties in the region and especially near Wheaton, the market probably can't support all of the upscale dwellers needed to make this profitable.
Of course, by the time this is done, maybe we'll be in the middle of the next planet-wrecking economic bubble and nobody will think twice to pay insanely high rent just to live above a train station.
The Wheaton map link is off.
I'm in support of the planned building, but I'd encourage them to do condos. I worry that Wheaton is going to become all rental. A mix is always better.
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