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Proposed 7-Eleven Store Sparks Dissent

By Brady HoltCurrent Staff Writer

A new 7-Eleven convenience store is planned for 1344 Wisconsin Ave. in Georgetown, with a targeted opening date of August 2013. But after a frosty reception at the Georgetown advisory neighborhood commission’s meeting Monday night, the company is working to amend its plans for the building’s exterior.

The location at Wisconsin and O Street, the second 7-Eleven in Georgetown, is part of the company’s nationwide push to increase its presence, spokesperson Margaret Chabris said in an interview. “The D.C. area is one of our growth areas, so we are actively looking for locations and to work with landlords and brokers and developers for good sites that would work well for us,” she said.

7-Eleven has been looking at the long-vacant 1344 Wisconsin site since January 2012, according to Chabris, as the company hopes to draw from the avenue’s foot traffic. It will have 1,500 square feet of ground-floor retail space, with office and storage space on the second floor, she said.

Chabris, and representatives at Monday’s meeting, said the company is working to fit with Georgetown’s historic character and to restore a deteriorated building.

But commissioners and neighboring business owners still aren’t fans. Though the design is more restrained than the typical 7-Eleven, they said it still doesn’t match nearby buildings; they took issue with its proposed multicolored signage, blade sign, masked windows, metal front door, and overly visible mechanical equipment.

Comments were biting at times, particularly from Robert Bell, whose O Street architecture firm is near the planned 7-Eleven. Non-transparent windows give the building “a bombed-out look,” he said, and the signage “looks like a 1952 Texaco sign or something.” Commissioner Bill Starrels added that aspects seem “trashy.”

Chabris said the company “got some good suggestions, so the team has gone back to work on the proposed project a little bit more to incorporate some of those suggestions.”

The project is scheduled to go before the Old Georgetown Board Thursday.

The neighborhood commission and Old Georgetown Board will only review design issues with the plan.

But Bell’s concerns — which he said are shared by five commercial neighbors — go further. A 7-Eleven, he said, just isn’t the sort of business that adds to Georgetown.

“This is the first time I ever thought of a building better as vacant than with this tenant,” said Bell. “The kind of dollar store, Big Gulp people this is going to bring in are going to do nothing for this block we’ve worked so hard on. … I think it’s a disaster.”

An article posted yesterday on the Georgetown Patch website quoted some residents saying they wanted a grocer at the corner. In her interview with The Current, Chabris said 7-Eleven fills that need.

“Someone who was quoted, I don’t think they’ve been in one of our stores lately,” she said. “We do have fresh foods — we have fresh fruit delivered every single day.”

7-Eleven stores normally cater to customers already in the neighborhood, she added. “Typically we draw from the existing traffic right there,” said Chabris. “Our trade area is usually about a half a mile, so it’s people who are already working, shopping, living in that area.”

A 7-Eleven store at 1600 Wisconsin Ave. closed several years ago and was eventually replaced by Edible Arrangements.

This article appears in the April 3 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.