Grocery stores have opened in Washington, DC since 2000 as a result of the District of Columbia’s deliberate strategy to provide access to healthy food to all residents in all neighborhoods. The majority of the stores are over 30,000 square feet including national chains such as Giant, Harris Teeter, Costco and Trader Joes. The mix includes several smaller urban stores including Aldi, Yes Organic Market, and Fairlawn Markets.
A 2010 study, When Healthy Food is Out of Reach, found that DC’s 43 full-service grocery stores were not distributed evenly across the city and there was still a significant “grocery gap” in Wards 4, 5, 7 and 8. “Washington, DC has undertaken a very aggressive approach to bring essential goods and services to the residents in those neighborhoods that lack retail services, including grocers,” said Keith Sellars, President/CEO Washington, DC Economic Partnership. WDCEP has courted grocers of all sizes to come into DC and has worked with those already here to enhance and expand their presence. The focus on food has paid off. Seventeen of the stores opened since 2000 are new, five of them are replacements for obsolete and older facilities. The investment in grocery stores accounts for over 800,000 sf of new store space to date, and close to 600,000 sf of space under construction.
“The expansion of grocers in the city is partly a response to residential growth but also the District’s strategic campaign to fill a void in our retail mix,” said Sellars. Today there are eight grocery stores under construction and four additional stores in the pipeline. The WDCEP Neighborhood Profiles (hyperlink) provides detailed data on 50 neighborhoods across the city and has been a useful tool in guiding grocers in their site selection.
Retail Leakage in DC is estimated to be $1 billion. “The grocers have stepped up to the call for action,” said Sellars. “Most of the stores are full service, all of the stores offer fresh food and produce, and many of these stores have commitments to buy locally,” said Sellars. Harris Teeter is one of the newer brands to enter the market. The company opened two stores in 2008 in Northwest and Southeast DC, and a third store in NE in 2010 (Adams Morgan, Capitol Hill and NoMa neighborhoods). A fourth store is under construction in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood located in Southeast DC and is scheduled to open in 2014.
“DC is a natural market for our expansion based on its growing residential base and the gaps in the market,” said Fred Morganthall, President, Harris Teeter. “DC like many urban cities had a real need for full service grocers and we saw an opportunity to become a fixture in many of the city’s emerging markets.” Harris Teeter has quickly become part of the community with its commitment to hire local residents and its local produce program.
Many of the stores that have opened are part of new developments or redevelopment projects including: a 55,000 sq ft Safeway on 4th St in SE; the 53,000 sq ft state of the art Giant in Columbia Heights as part of the Tivoli Theater Redevelopment; and the 154,000 sq ft Costco at the New York & South Dakota Avenue, NE. The Costco Store is the the company’s 619th store worldwide and the anchor of the Shops at Dakota Crossing, the retail arm of a planned community in the Fort Lincoln neighborhood.
These 21 stores that have opened have also catalyzed other retail development. The presence of a grocer has helped to drive housing development in many of the corridors throughout the city. Research has shown that once a grocer was committed or opened, the appeal of that neighborhood increases.