Photo by Joe+Jeanette Archie on Flickr.

Carver-Langston is a dense, urban neighborhood, and is about to benefit greatly from the H Street-Benning Road streetcar, which will run across the entire southern edge of the neighborhood. Unfortunately, commercial developers still seem to think they are located in a far-flung suburb, miles from the city.

Along with the increase in transit options for the over 5,500 residents of the neighborhood, a new grocery option is on its way. Aldi will be opening a new store in the neighborhood, but the design and layout show absolutely zero creativity or understanding of how to build in a transit-friendly, walkable area.

Much of the entire southwest corner of the neighborhood is commercial in nature, but has been laid out in a suburban style. This isn’t just inappropriate for this part of the city, it’s clearly a waste of prime real estate.

Here’s the preliminary site plan for the new Aldi store:


As you can see, the store, which will be located at the southeast corner of 17th Street and Maryland Avenue NE, will not address the street. Rather, a majority of the lot will be an asphalt parking lot, which is almost identical to the standard plan that Aldi provides to developers (PDF):


It doesn’t have to be this way. Aldi’s European operations have shown that they can operate stores that fit into an urban environment:


Image from Google Maps.


This store, located in Frankfurt, Germany, is at the junction of multiple streetcar lines and shares a building that includes other uses (which appear to be offices) above the ground floor. Bicycle parking in front (and a U-Bahn station below) add to the transportation options available to shoppers (of course, access by foot is a given).

Why couldn’t a store like this be built in Carver Langston? There’s little incentive to do so. Sure, this isn’t the central business district of the city, but there’s no reason that we shouldn’t prioritize every parcel of limited commercial land in DC to serve a higher purpose. More property taxes could come from a multi-story building that has office space in addition to a grocery store. Income tax could come from residents living above such a store. Instead, the city has settled for the lowest common denominator.

How can we make sure things like this don’t happen again? A first step is to make sure that the Zoning Commission passes the parking regulations from the zoning update. The Commission extended the period when they’ll be accepting testimony, so there is still time to send in a letter stating your agreement that we need to prioritize non-automotive growth within the city.

Submit your comments to the Zoning Commission by fax or email. Emailed comments must be signed and sent as a PDF of not more than 10 pages. Send your signed PDF to: zcsubmissions@dc.gov. Written testimony must be received before 3 pm on Monday, December 20th.