This afternoon is the second meeting of the Retail Strategy group of the DC Zoning Update. This group is discussing how zoning codes can encourage retail in DC, including where retail is allowed, and how to encourage smaller retailers as well as large.

I’ll be there pushing for zoning that fosters as vibrant a retail environment as possible. What do you think we should do? Here are some general questions to get you thinking:

  • Requiring retail. Should we require buildings to have ground-floor retail? What if the owner tries to rent out the space and can’t? Should they be able to switch to offices, or should they have to lower their prices to get something?
  • Consolidating retail. Some areas like Georgia Avenue have long strips of shops, but the population really isn’t enough to support quite so many stores, so you end up with a lot of check cashing places and some unprofitable businesses that don’t maintain a nice appearance. Should we push to consolidate retail in more defined districts?
  • Downtown. Maybe we should require retail uses more strongly downtown? There, the office rents are so high that we may need zoning more urgently to make sure there is also enough retail.
  • Neighborhood stores. Many neighborhoods are residentially zoned even on main streets, preventing convenience stores, cafes, and dry cleaners. Should we allow some of this? Do we need to create little commercial zones everywhere, or could we just let businesses under a certain square footage locate anywhere along larger streets?

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.