Casual chain dining is embracing Barracks Row.
With a committee vote down and a full zoning commission vote impending, it appears the Chinatown-ification (and not the previously loathed Adams-Morgifying threatened last year by the area’s ANC) of Capitol Hill’s main street is coming.
A report by the Eastern Market Metro Community Association confirms it is likely Dollar + Continental will become a Chipotle, and China Wall may be headed in a similar direction.
I spoke to the proprietor of Dollar + Continental, and he seemed happy about the whole thing, as are the people who are willing to pay $1,500 a month for my old musty English basement around the corner. He was under the impression the Chipotle will eventually encapsulate both storefronts, though the store may just start in the old retail shop.
But perhaps I am “burying the lede.” If China Wall closes, there will no longer be any chicken/subs/seafood/pizza/Chinese food takeouts on 8th Street; there were two about two years back. It is telling that once, those were the type of businesses that thrived on this strip. The closing of Dollar + Continental confirms this area’s future is in restaurants, not retail, though Dollar + Continental’s niche seemed to be somewhere within the Venn diagram of a grocery, 7-Eleven and hardware store. Fortunately, real versions of all those businesses are still nearby. I went to D + C once to buy a lighter. Hey, Bic happens.
Relatedly, Starfish Cafe, an awful restaurant down the street, has closed. I thought this was evidence of the market at work, squeezing out a bad restaurant as the amount of eateries on 8th Street plateaued. It appears I was incorrect; the owners are apparently reopening a new, hopefully superior restaurant, with what they call a “clean slate.” So the burgeoning restaurant market on this street is not yet cooling down.
But Chipotle ushers in a new period for the neighborhood, which has a history of having some chain stores but is more known for local restaurant groups and funky retail. Are those days already over? If a high-dollar franchise is willing to locate in the the hood and can overcome the NIMBYs, imagine the developers, both commercial and residential, that are salivating over 8th Street’s development. It is hard to imagine such a popping neighborhood can maintain its low-rise nature, but if the battle over the future of a closed middle school’s redevelopment is any clue, people will try their hardest to keep the condos out.
Bonus: It will be fun to watch Craiglist apartment ads repping the “Chipotle around the corner.” Talk about burying the lede: I know people who would rent here just to be near the Popeye’s.