Friday, April 20, 2012

2323 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE

If you have ever traveled down Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE in Anacostia, you may be familiar with Morgan's Family Fish Fry. One order of flounder at Morgan's contained about 17 fried fillets, over-stuffed into a standard Styrofoam tray. Now Morgan's is no more. I first noticed the absence of activity at 2323 MLK a couple of months ago, and the For Sale sign confirms it.

This is one of the larger properties on the business strip to hit the market recently, and it offers the advantageous combination of being located close to the Metro and outside of the historic district (meaning there are fewer restrictions on redevelopment). If the eventual purchaser follows in the footsteps of most commercial property owners in the neighborhood, he/she will hold it vacant indefinitely, speculating that at some point in the future the redeveloped property will command the high rents that it would need to justify the development costs and still turn a profit.

Before this week, I had heard the term Crowdsourcing, but then all of a sudden it got tons of hype, specifically as it relates to having neighborhood residents identify a preferred retailer for a site. Elahe Izadi thinks it's classist; Richard Layman thinks it's stupid; I just think it's fun.

So, based on absolutely zero reality, here are four hypothetical options for this site. They range from optimistic to pessimistic, and each has impacts associated with it that should be taken into consideration. 

A) Redeveloped with Busboys and Poets restaurant on the ground floor and three stories of subsidized rental apartments above. Creates jobs and slightly increases property values (and taxes) for homeowners in the surrounding neighborhood, but also raises commercial and residential rents. Increases traffic and night-time noise, and makes it more difficult to find street parking within a few blocks of the site.

B) Redeveloped as a Five Guys restaurant and a bank on the ground floor, with three stories of commercial office space above. Creates a number of retail jobs for neighborhood residents, but most office jobs will already be filled by people from across the region. Increases traffic on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave and Howard Road during the morning, lunch-time, and afternoon rush hours.

C) Existing building reused as a Wendy's restaurant with drive-through window. Increases traffic slightly throughout the day and creates some entry-level jobs. No impact on property values, and does not increase rental rates in nearby homes or lease rates for neighboring businesses. What good is a fancy restaurant if I can't afford to eat there anyways?

D) Site remains vacant and parking lot is used informally by patrons of nearby businesses. No impact on traffic on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave, and lack of development prevents rents from increasing for residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. I like the neighborhood exactly how it is, and I don't want any changes that will attract new residents or increase my cost of living!

Which option would you prefer?


  1. I don't think crowdsourcing is necessarily stupid, my concern is that a lot of the time I think it misses the point because it is focused on determining "what people want".

    While the Miller Bros. might not think so, for the most part, we already know "what people want." (That doesn't mean don't survey people.)

    Where we need is more input and effort focused is on "how to achieve-create what people want".

    E.g., your scenarios are cool, potentially, but how do you get from fantasy to reality? That's the issue. E.g., for the most part, surveys don't mean squat when it comes to retail recruitment for chains, although are relevant more to independents.

    Crowdsourcing fails to harness energy where it is really needed. Given that our social and community capital resources are limited, it seems foolish to waste them.

    While you stated that I think crowdsourcing is stupid, you neglected to mention the entry also mentions "crowdfunding" and this link:


    Crowdfunding appeals to me more because it addresses capital formation and is focused on implementation, putting $ to dreams.

    Anyway, I will be blogging about that again in the next couple days.

    1. I agree that "stupid" was not an accurate paraphrase of your sentiments about crowdsourcing, but my intention was to get people to follow the link to read your detailed, nuanced post. Crowdfunding does sound more appealing, and I look forward to reading your article on the subject.