As even the most casual reader of this blog knows, Anacostia has a supermarket problem. The neighborhood just lost its only grocery store, and the struggling Yes! Organic Market in nearby Fairlawn closed last week (though it’ll reopen under a dubious renaming plan). In this walkable, relatively densely populated neighborhood, there’s no one who doesn’t think a local grocery option is sorely needed.
Into the fray steps Chris Dickersin-Prokopp, aka R.U. Seriousing Me?, with an excellent blog post assessing possible locations for a new grocery store. Dickersin-Prokopp overlays supermarket locations onto an income-density map of the city and finds that the Yes!’s heavy losses may result in part from its location in a low-aggregate-income area (due to the low number of households in the immediate vicinity as well as the low average income of those households). He concludes that the best spot for a new grocery store would be across from the Anacostia Metro station, potentially on the big parking lot of the Bethlehem Baptist Church.
The location is great for a number of reasons: It’s Metro-accessible, it’ll benefit from the redevelopment of nearby St. Elizabeths and Barry Farm (the latter currently provides close to zero in the way of aggregate income, according to Dickersin-Prokopp’s’ maps), and it could help spur the retail movement of Anacostia toward the Metro (in a conversation yesterday, Anacostia Economic Development Corporation President Stan Jackson said he expects the neighborhood’s center of gravity to shift slowly from the MLK/Good Hope intersection toward Anacostia Station).
But it also suffers from the same problem Dickersin-Prokopp highlights with regard to the Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket site: Developers could be scared off by the coming Walmart at the Skyland Town Center. Like the AWS, Dickersin-Prokopp’s proposed site is served by the Potomac-Skyland Circulator route, which, according to WMATA, gets you to Skyland in a mere 11 minutes for a dollar.
This is where residents’ fears of retail displacement from the coming big-box invasion are realized. It’s not necessarily that the new Walmarts will drive existing businesses under—-after all, several of them are in retail-starved areas—-but that they might prevent new businesses from setting up shop in the first place. And in the case of Anacostia, the neighborhood could use a walkable grocery store much more than a two-mile away megastore.