When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. – Maya Angelou
As reported by many outlets over the weekend, Wegmans grocery store announced that it will be opening a location in the District in 2022. Unfortunately for most DCNorthstar readers, that store will be located at the Fannie Mae development site on the other side of Rock Creek Park, not at the nearby Walter Reed site as so many of us hoped. With this move, the popular “theme park for food” jumps into a scrum of grocery chains competing for business along a very short stretch of Wisconsin Avenue NW. While it is rarely useful to cry over spilled milk, I thought it would be instructive to look back at how the store came to make this decision.
A Brief Review
Back in 2013 during the Walter Reed master developer competition, Roadside Development partnered with Wegmans and featured the company’s logo in nearly every exhibit it created. This proved to be so alluring to residents and decision-makers alike that the other development teams began to do the same thing, despite having no existing relationship with the company. This prompted Roadside and Wegmans to respond in the Washington Post in August 2013:
Though Wegmans has repeatedly said it would like to open its first D.C. store at Walter Reed, the grocer told ANC 4A commissioners and District officials in a letter last July that it would effectively only come to Walter Reed if its preferred development team, Roadside Development, is selected for the project.
“Wegmans is an exclusive member of the Roadside Development team,” wrote Ralph Uttaro, senior vice president at the Rochester, N.Y. chain. He said the grocer “specifically partnered with Roadside” on the Walter Reed proposal because of the pair’s experience developing another successful project, in Woodbridge.
Fast forward to November 2013: with the support of city officials and members of both ANC 4A and ANC 4B, the Hines development team was selected for the Walter Reed project. City officials and residents were still pretty confident that the decision wouldn’t hurt the chances of landing the coveted retailer.
(Deputy mayor for planning and economic development) Victor Hoskins stressed that Wegmans — despite the grocer advocating on behalf of D.C.-based Roadside — and other retailers were still very interested.
“Wegmans is like any other retail grocery store,” Hoskins said. “They examine a location very diligently. Our conversations with them have pointed to this site. We know that these decisions are always hard but the bottom line is that they were serious about this site prior to this selection and we expect that they will be afterwards.”- Washington Post, November 2013
Oops. Decisions matter.
The Bottom Line
I thought this would be a helpful reminder to residents and elected officials at all levels that the policies they set have a real impact on our business partners and the overall quality of life for our neighborhoods. With major development projects still on the drawing board for the upper Georgia Avenue corridor, our ANC commissioners need to ask themselves if they are looking out for the interests of the entire community or only for a select few? We’ll have many years to ponder that question as we drive to Wisconsin Avenue for sushi.