Proposed Chipotle and Adjacent Restaurant Space on Barracks Row
Chipotle Stumbles on First Hurdle – ANC6B Planning and Zoning Committee
Vote to Oppose Application Sends Issue to Full ANC
by Larry Janezich
ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee voted to oppose a Chipotle Mexican Grill on Barracks Row Tuesday night, but left the door open for further consideration by the full ANC6B next week.
The architect of record appeared before the Committee prepared to discuss architectural plans and historic preservation. But the Committee wanted to hear a rational from corporate officials for their request for a special exception to zoning regulations prohibiting businesses from opening fast food restaurants in the commercial corridor as “a matter of right.”
Since corporate representatives who could speak to the question were not present, the Committee voted 4 – 3 to oppose the request pending receipt of information supporting the rational for granting the exception. Chipotle representatives will have the opportunity to make their case before the full ANC6B at its regular meeting on Tuesday, June 14.
Committee members stressed that they want to hear the same presentation that Chipotle representatives will make to the Board of Zoning Adjustment to justify the exception, and expressed a preference to hear from the franchise operator. It emerged during the discussion that Chipotle’s plan is to establish the restaurant and later place an operator. In lieu of the operator, Committee members said they wanted to hear from corporate representatives and from the building owner, Streetsense.
A secondary but related issue was the question of how good a corporate neighbor Chipotle would be. Commissioner Ivan Frishberg noted his efforts to effect redress regarding community concerns about corporate retailers in the community were too often frustrated by a distant corporate bureaucracy with no understanding or appreciation of neighborhood or community problems.
He said he was not comfortable in hearing from corporate representatives about what the policy of future franchise holders toward participation in community civic efforts would be. He stated flatly, “the track record of corporate chains is abysmal” in this area and “I’m not sure we can trust a corporate regional representative to be a good neighbor.”
Neighborhood activist Yoonmee Chang agreed with Frishberg, and addressed the adverse effects that a fast food restaurant would have on the immediate neighbors of Barrack’s Row, including litter, traffic, contribution to a transient atmosphere, and setting of precedent. Chang asked, “Why not Burger King next year?” Asked if she preferred the current tenant over Chipotle, Chang replied that it was comparing apples and oranges, and she preferred not to think of it as a tradeoff.
Frishberg made the motion to oppose the application for zoning adjustment pending receipt of information supporting the rational for granting an exception. The motion was agreed to by a vote of four to three. Commissioners voting for the motion: Frishberg, Oldenburg, Metzger, and Green. Those opposed: Flahaven, Pate, and Glick.
The building owner, Streetsense, is a brokerage, design and development company specializing in retail and real estate. Their clients include Chipotle, Starbucks, Matchbox, and Le Pain Quotidian. Chipotle has been a client since 2007 when they engaged Streetsense to handle architecture, interior design, brokerage and market analysis. Chipotle has more than 65 restaurants open in the DC metropolitan market.
Streetsense announced their acquisition of the Barracks Row property on May 11, 2011. The two-level, 8,700 square foot building is actually two separate spaces, currently occupied by China Wall and Dollar + Continental.
According to the Streetsense website, Streetsense Architecture has been engaged to reconstruct the two street-front retail spaces (1,399sf and 1,544sf respectively) into ADA compliant, clean shells, with all utilities required by restaurants stubbed to the premises. Streetsense Retail Advisors brokered a deal with Chipotle to occupy the 1,544sf space; the restaurant plans to open in early 2012. The remaining 1,399 square feet will soon be made available for lease.
The full ANC6B will meet at Church of Jesus Christ of LDS, 522 7th Street, SE, Tuesday, June 14, 2011 – 7:00pm.