A historic Anacostia building will house Walgreens latest pharmacy. (Courtesy Photo)
Walgreens is coming to Ward 8’s historic “Anacostia” building at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE and Good Hope Road SE. But residents are raising concerns over whether the development would bolster the area or force out existing businesses.
With five pharmacies within walking distance of the proposed Walgreens location, at least one of which, Neighborhood Pharmacy boasts a 30-year history, some see the major retailer as a death-knell to the Black-owned businesses that have long called the area home.
“There are already pharmacies in the area, so the Walgreens would be in direct competition with these community stores,” resident Danielle Johnson-Harris told the AFRO. “What we need are grocers like Whole Foods or Trader Joes, or even a few night spots, where the growing population of young, urban professionals can mingle.”
Ironically, just a decade ago, a jazz club was proposed for the Anacostia building, but plans fell though unexpectedly. Johnson-Harris said she initially learned of the Walgreens project through the Historic Anacostia Block Association, which hosted a meet and greet April 18 with Walgreens representatives.
Other Ward 8 residents such as Joyce Doyle, president and CEO of Aureum Solutions, a management, technology consulting company, said that with the shift in demographics it was important for new developments to reflect their lifestyles.
“I would be happy with the new development moving straight up Martin Luther King to its intersection at Malcolm X, because there are lots of professional people here who purchased homes expecting the same level of access to things as those on Capitol Hill,” Doyle told the AFRO. “Many of us have had to compromise on our expectations of Ward 8 while awaiting those changes.
Anacostia saw a healthy spike in real estate prices in 2015, welcoming homeowners paying a median home price of $257,000, a 35 percent increase over the 2014 rate of $190,000.
According to a report from 2015, homes are also spending less than 20 days on the market before being sold. The report showed a poverty rate in Ward 8 that increased 10 percentage points to 37 percent, compared to 18 percent citywide from 1990 to 2012.
From 2000 to 2014, the number of people receiving food stamps nearly doubled from 24,797 to 42,294 in 2014 – a stark comparison to one of the city’s wealthier neighborhoods, Ward 3, where only 598 people received food stamps in 2014.
“I’m all for the change that is coming through the neighborhood, but what happens to those who can’t keep up? This is probably the last Ward of the city that still looks like ‘old D.C.,’” Congress Heights resident Darnell Duncan said. “I want the crime to go and new businesses to come in, but I can do without dog parks and having Southeast turned into Georgetown.”
It remains unclear when the Walgreens will open or if the “Anacostia” sign will remain, although a notice of intent has been taped to the building and internal renovations are underway.