“It’s not enough for people to just want something”

If you missed it, the Friends of Rhode Island Ave (FoRIA) hosted their inaugural “Rhode Trip” last week at Boundary Stone DC. It was a complete success and has garnered some attention. Check out the article from Urban Turf that sums it up pretty well. Here are some excerpts from the article:

 

Last Wednesday at 5:30pm, 15 residents of DC’s Woodridge neighborhood entered the Bloomingdale bar Boundary Stone wearing t-shirts that read “Friends of Rhode Island Avenue.” They chatted with the bartenders, spent money, and left calling cards that said “If you build it, we will come.”

The purpose? Convincing the owner to open up shop in Woodridge, which has a dusty commercial strip a couple miles away on Rhode Island Avenue.

While Woodridge’s housing stock has been attracting DC residents on the hunt for a reasonably-priced home for some time, the retail options are essentially non-existent. Friends of Rhode Island Avenue (FoRIA), a community group from the neighborhood, believes that their so-called “Rhode Trips” will be a good way to convince appealing retailers around the District to move up their way. The trip to Boundary Stone was the group’s first attempt.

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“It’s not enough for people to just want something,” said Ben Miller, the founder of Popularise, a website that allows residents to vote and comment on what businesses should occupy available addresses around DC. “Other factors need to be brought into the equation, like money and the quality of the operator. The most popular idea isn’t always the best operator.”

However, Miller believes that the sort of engagement that FoRIA is generating amongst its residents is powerful if it can be properly communicated to the right entrepreneurs, landlords and developers. Often, entrepreneurs don’t know exactly where the demand is, he said. “Can we make the demand more explicit by partnering with a neighborhood and giving them an online platform?” wondered Miller.

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In addition to planning Rhode Trips, FoRIA is eager to attract businesses with other efforts, like their upcoming fall festival in September. The scant businesses that exist, like Rita’s Italian Ice and Art Enables, will open their doors, vendors and artists will fill the strip, and FoRIA hopes that entrepreneurs will come to check out the vacancies. The organization also has ties to the Greater Washington Chamber of Commerce and the Washington Area Community Investment Firm and is building a Board with experience in revitalization.

 

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