The Washington, DC Economic Partnership has made a focused effort over the last 15 years to actively attract grocery stores and retailers with major grocery components to service the District’s many food deserts. As early as ten years ago, a substantial percentage of Washington DC’s residents were living in a food desert. With only 36 chain grocery stores servicing the District, many neighborhoods and residents didn’t have easy access to staple commodities. Additionally, many of the existing stores were undersized, outdated and ill-prepared to serve in already increasing population moving to the District.
In the ten years since 2004, DC has grown its stock of chain grocery stores from 36 to 51 with another 10 stores either under construction or planned. Not only had DC increased the number of grocery stores servicing its many former food deserts, but it also welcomed entirely new grocery brands to the District. Since 2004, grocers such as Harris Teeter, Trader Joe’s, MOM’s Organic Market, Costco and Walmart have entered the Washington, DC grocer market.
Real estate development growth also played a significant role in improving many of the existing, outdated stores. Increasing demand for density in DC has put more pressure on better utilizing large-footprint grocery stores and parking lots. In the last ten years, 7 existing grocers have (or will be) substantially updated and expanded by means of new, mixed-use developments, anchored by ground floor grocery stores. Examples of these demolitions and grocery-anchored redevelopments can be seen at CityMarket at O (Giant) and Waterfront Station (Safeway).
The District still has a lot work to do in addressing the continued problem of food deserts particularly in Wards 7 and 8, but magnitude and rate of the success seen so far in grocery store growth is certainly impressive and bodes well for future grocery and business attraction efforts. WDCEP is proud to have supported and played a role in these efforts.