WASHINGTON -- It was just six years ago when newcomers to Columbia Heights were clamoring for a Whole Foods in their rapidly redeveloping neighborhood.
"I don't want it to sound like I'm one of the new people and I need all these services," Columbia Heights resident Lauren Tobias told The Washington Post at the time. "But a Whole Foods is just needed."
It's now 2012 and Columbia Heights, about two and a half miles north of the White House, still doesn't have a Whole Foods.
But residents there and in adjacent District of Columbia neighborhoods that have seen an influx of new residential development have seen plenty of improved grocery options in recent years, including a new Harris Teeter on Kalorama Road, a new YES! Organic Grocery on 14th Street NW and a revamped Giant Foods on Park Road.
And now, Trader Joe's, the California-based discount grocery chain with an eager, sometimes cult-like following, will reportedly open its second D.C. location in a new mixed-used development rising at 14th and U streets NW. A new Harris Teeter could be coming to the intersection of Sherman and Florida avenues, too, according to Capital Business.
Traditional grocery chains in D.C., like Giant Foods and Safeway, have been revamping their stores amid the new competition. The Safeway on Georgia Avenue in Petworth closed this month and is being rebuilt. The Giant on O Street NW in Shaw is currently being rebuilt as well.
And the Whole Foods on P Street NW, which helped lay the foundation for the redevelopment of Logan Circle and the 14th Street corridor, is still going strong after opening nearly 12 years ago.
A decade ago, D.C. residents east of Rock Creek Park, long used as a local socio-economic boundary, often complained about having terrible grocery stores. They bestowed unsavory nicknames to the few options that were available, like the so-called "Soviet Safeway" on 17th Street NW in Dupont Circle, known for its long lines and sometimes empty shelves.
But the days of having meager pickings in this part of D.C. are long since over as neighborhoods east of Rock Creek Park have seen major reinvestment. But with a new Trader Joe's being added to the mix in the vicinity of 14th and U streets, will the nation's capital soon have too many grocery stores?
Tim Craig of The Washington Post asked on Monday:
To the urban planning community, that answer all depends on how many new residents can be packed into the area.
Greater Greater Washington's David Alpert responded to Craig's question:
Time will tell, of course, whether these grocery chains have been making wise investments.
But if the area around 14th and U streets NW is becoming oversaturated, it's worth pointing out that other parts of the nation's capital continue to have lackluster grocery options, including neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.