City Paper is not for tourists
Anacostia’s only grocery store is closing today, and it may soon be replaced by a combination of tenants that could include a organic food store, a fast food chain store, a dialysis center, a dentist’s office, or a childcare center.
Good Hope Investments LLC bought the Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket building at 1918 14th St. SE on Nov. 2, according to city deed records. A search for the company yielded a residential address in Vienna, Va., where I reached Mossadaq F. Chughtai, who confirmed that he purchased the store. “We actually are negotiating with some national tenants,” says Chughtai, who has owned several D.C. properties. “We have some [letters of interest] on the table which we haven’t signed yet. My goal is to draw a national or international tenant. This area will only boost up when you start to have national companies.”
Chughtai says he can’t name any of the prospective tenants until they sign on. He also says he was approached by some less appealing tenants and turned them down.
“I have been approached by liquor stores, by nightclubs, and by check-cashing people, and by mom-and-pop food stores and dollar-stores companies,” he says. “But I have decided not to take that route. I think it’s an interest of mine, an interest of the community that someone needs to step up and start courting national tenants.”
Greta Fuller, of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8A, says Chughtai has been talking to the community “for quite some time.” She appreciates his efforts to lure another grocery store to the neighborhood but is not pleased with his likely plan to break the building up into smaller parcels to lease out.
“I don’t want that,” Fuller says. “I don’t want that at all, honestly. It’s a large parcel of land here in the community. And every time we lose large parcels and they’re broken into little pieces, it doesn’t serve the needs of the community.” She’d be particularly upset by a dialysis center, which she’s heard is a likely option, because it would replace a neighborhood amenity—-a supermarket—-with a service that’s mostly for people outside the community.
The closure of the supermarket comes on the heels of news that the Yes! Organic Market in Fairlawn, directly north of Anacostia, will close in early December. Anacostia residents must now travel more than a mile to the Safeway at Good Hope Marketplace, which receives very poor reviews, or across the Anacostia River to do their grocery shopping—-or even outside the city.
“If you’re talking about the average person in Anacostia, yeah, they went there,” says Fuller of the Anacostia Warehouse Supermarket. “Now they don’t have anyplace to go. Now they have to catch a bus.”
Chughtai plans to renovate the building before opening it—-he promises “a lot of glass, good visibility; it will not appear as a jail-cell building.” He hopes to have it ready for new tenants within six months. But that could mean six months without any grocery options in Anacostia.
Chughtai says he initially felt discouraged from investing in Anacostia after a meeting with the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation, which he describes as “a bunch of thugs.”
“They’re just interested in filling their pockets,” he says. “I felt they were thugs. We had several meetings, and I was very unhappy with the kind of leadership they had there.” Since then, the AEDC named a new CEO this month, Stanley Jackson, who previously held several senior city government posts and served as acting president of the University of the District of Columbia.
Chughtai says he was on the verge of walking away from the deal before he spoke with ANC commissioners Fuller and Charles Wilson, whom he says he found bright and helpful.
Chughtai says he owns several companies in the United States and overseas, with real estate as “our primary focus at the moment.” He has owned a property at at 3900 Benning Road NE since 1983, owned the Shop Express at the old Nehemiah Shopping Center on 14th Street NW, and owns the Major shoestore building on Wisconsin Avenue NW in Georgetown. He has yet to work in Anacostia. Good Hope Investments LLC, he says, is a company set up specifically for the Anacostia project.
Screen shot from Google Street View