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Community, Mayor Welcome Starbucks in Historic Anacostia

Following years of anticipation, neither rainfall nor an ongoing pandemic could deter the recent grand opening of Starbucks on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in historic Anacostia.

Among the first customers at the May 22 event were Mayor Muriel Bowser, stopping by after a visit to a newly renovated floor of the United Medical Center, and John Falcicchio, acting deputy mayor of the Office of Planning and Economic Development.

“The community told us they wanted retail they see in other parts of the city in their community,” Falcicchio said. “What is so impressive about the Starbucks community store in Historic Anacostia is we have been able to bring the community into Starbucks from the workers and staff to the customers to the artwork on the wall.”

More than a decade ago, the office acquired the “Big K lot,” a parcel of blighted historic properties on the 2200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, under then-Mayor Adrian Fenty. During the mayoral transition from Vince Gray to the Bowser administration, financing for a $50 million mixed-use affordable housing development, branded Maple View Flats, was secured.

The new Starbucks in the Anacostia neighborhood in southeast D.C. (John Muller/Special to The Informer)
The new Starbucks in the Anacostia neighborhood in southeast D.C. (John Muller/Special to The Informer)

After relocation of the last two remaining historic homes, the Big K liquor store, built on the corner of Morris Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in 1905, was razed in spring 2017. That fall, Bowser announced the multinational coffee chain had signed a letter of intent to become the anchor tenant at Maple View Flats.

Initial reactions to the opening on social media and talk within the community on the arrival of Starbucks has been positive from residents and city officials alike.

“When I look at my community I realize my community is moving forward,” said community activist Robin McKinney, a native Washingtonian who became a homeowner on nearby Talbert Street in recent years. “Starbucks and Busboys and Poets down the street is just the beginning.

“Ward 8 is growing and I’m growing, too, just like the plants in my yard,” she said. “The opening of Starbucks lets me know there is an opportunity here for everyone to grow.”

Hanna Baker, 8A Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, concurred.

“The opening of Starbucks is an important step in erasing the redline that has for too long defined our neighborhood,” said Baker, who lives around the corner. “I am hopeful that Starbucks’ choice to invest in Anacostia is an indication of more community-focused investment to come.”

As part of the company’s Community Store Program initiative dedicated to providing economic opportunity in underserved rural and urban communities across the country, last week the 15th community store in the country opened in Landover in Prince George’s County with Anacostia being the 16th, according to Starbucks spokesperson Bailey Adkins.

“Over the last five years, we’ve seen these Community Stores empower our partners and customers to create meaningful impact that is localized and relevant to their neighborhoods,” Adkins said. “We’ve learned a great deal from our Community Stores and applied those learnings to how we approach community partnership in the neighborhoods we serve across the country.”

Anacostia employs 18 partners and will serve as a training center.

“The company continues to make investments in our communities and our partners, who are the heartbeat of our company,” Adkins said.

By 2025 the coffee retailer plans to operate 100 stores in underrepresented neighborhoods across the country as part of an expanded Community Store program, working with nonprofits and civic leaders to support economic growth from within communities.

A mural by local artist Aniekan Udofia showing Chuck Brown, Frederick Douglass and the Big Chair is on display at the new Starbucks in the Anacostia neighborhood of southeast D.C. (John Muller/Special to The Informer)
A mural by local artist Aniekan Udofia showing Chuck Brown, Frederick Douglass and the Big Chair is on display at the new Starbucks in the Anacostia neighborhood of southeast D.C. (John Muller/Special to The Informer)

Although social distancing guidelines prohibited taking a closer look at the 2,800-square-foot café in Anacostia, a community space and panoramic mural caught the attention of onlookers and passersby.

The artwork by D.C.-based Aniekan Udofia depicting the city skyline inhabited by Chuck Brown, Frederick Douglass, a woman holding a boombox with a go-go inspired T-shirt, the Big Chair and a compass oriented towards “SE” is a centerpiece of the store.

Until public health guidelines are relaxed, the Anacostia Starbucks will require customers to pick up their orders at the door. Future access to the interior and community space will be available upon guidelines from the company and city.

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