Now that the date draws nearer for a second 7-Eleven to open in Georgetown, residents are beginning to pay more attention to its proposed location: the corner of Wisconsin and O Streets. The plans went before the ANC, according to The Georgetown Current, and the result was not happy for 7-Eleven. Some residents and business owners frankly question whether it is appropriate for that corner, which already faces the challenges of nearby Wisconsin Avenue "blight." The businesses on O Street, for example, are trying very hard to preserve some integrity on their block.
The "look" is a big issue. There's a relatively new 7-Eleven on P Street at 27th and while definitely convenient it is also an architectural eyesore. What's troubling in particular is the window trim that blocks any view into the store. That's unpleasant, but I would think it's also a crime waiting to happen. Bad guys could be in there holding up the clerks and no one on the outside could tell. While that 7-Eleven look may blend in on a highway or in a strip mall it doesn't blend in among 18th century buildings. It stands out, which means it is not blending in.
Some say they want a grocery at Wisconsin and O and that's a proposal with merit. 7-Eleven says it is a grocery. It's not. That's like CVS calling itself a grocery. Selling freshly-cooked hot dogs does not make a convenience store a grocery. Maybe on Mars, but we're not Mars. A 7/11 is a convenience store. Georgetown Dinette and Wingo's do a better job with food made to order - better than any 7/11 could accomplish. Neam's, now gone, was a grocery. Dean & Deluca is a grocery (high end, but still a grocery). With CVS so close to the 7-Eleven location it is tough to see what 7/11 can offer than we don't already have in the vincinity -- other than lottery tickets. Well, Georgetown Dinette has lottery tickets. And, as already stated, there's a double-wide 7/11 only a few blocks over on P Street. Isn't that enough 7-Eleven for Georgetown? When there was a second one before, at Wisconsin and Q, the second one failed.
The real issue is what it always comes back to in Georgetown: landlords. How involved are the landlords in looking for the best possible tenant for that corner? Is there pressure on them from the ANC to spread the net wide, to factor in the community, to consider the whole? The principal landlord of 1344 Wisconsin Avenue is deceased, and the building is in the hands of his heirs. Do they live in Georgetown? Have they visited the businesses adjacent to the corner, to listen to what those business owners have to say? Are they involved or just leaving it to their commercial realtor? Is it only about the rent, as it so often is with Georgetown landlords? These are questions that need to be answered, now and in the long-term with other commercial buildings.
History matters less and less in Georgetown, but it still matters. To that end, notably, that corner was once home to the venerable "Doc" Dalinsky's pharmacy. Not a grocery, but still a vital part of the community. Neighbors gathered there to hang out, to talk with the owner -- who they knew well -- making it an anchor for the community. Around the corner his wife owned a quirky store that was both a beauty and smoke shop. Why not use Dalinksky's as the inspiration for this property? A unique concept, something that suits the community, something visually in harmony with its neighbors, and not redundant. Think Stachowkis, Baked & Wired, Pie Sisters, Scheele's.
Whenever I write these kinds of thoughts about Georgetown I become dispirited after, because unless the ANC changes the culture of Georgetown landlords -- and by that I mean become badass toward them -- decisions about tenants will continue to be made based on only one factor: money. Do all Georgetown landlords deserve to be painted with this brush? No. But yes to most.