A stand-alone Starbucks and an Uber hub could be among the catalysts that catapults the East End from obscure and forgotten to thriving and memorable.
Starbucks signed a letter of intent to become the anchor tenant at a new affordable housing development in Ward 8, bringing jobs and business to a long-vacant parcel in the heart of Anacostia, Mayor Muriel Bowser said.
The popular coffee shop will take occupancy as one of the ground floor retailers at Maple View Flats, a Department of Housing and Community Development Project at 2228 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast.
Maple View Flats is a planned $50 million project that will feature 114 newly constructed affordable housing units that will be rented to households that make a maximum 60 percent of the Area Media Income.
The units will be affordable for 40 years and will be bound by a Housing Production Trust Fund covenant, according to a news release from the mayor’s office.
The project also will consist of more than 14,500 square-feet of ground floor commercial space and two levels of underground parking.
“We know that every corner of Washington, D.C. is a great place to do business and through this partnership with Starbucks, we are bringing in a company that is committed to hiring D.C. residents,” Bowser said.
“This is how we expand prosperity, by being intentional about how we develop our neighborhoods and ensuring that as we grow, we create jobs for residents and set our communities up for long-term success,” she said, although a grand opening hasn’t been announced.
Ward 7 Council member Vincent Gray has fought for relevance for the Anacostia area, even pushing a name change from “East of the River” to the “East End.”
Gray said “East of the River” gives the impression that “it’s the other side of the tracks.”
“Why can’t the East End become the name of Ward 7 and 8 and have a clean slate?” Gray said. “We’re trying to do something we know that is good. A lot of people hear east of the river and it just connotes something negative. The rebranding is something very positive.”
Bowser also said Uber has opened a new Greenlight Hub, a state-of-the-art support and resource center for local Uber drivers, at the East River Park Shopping Center in Ward 7. The Hub will result in the creation of 25 full-time jobs, millions of dollars in investment into the location, and access to support services for thousands of Uber partners.
Uber is accepting bids exclusively from D.C.-based Small Business Enterprises for the general contract, city officials said.
“A Greenlight Hub at East River Park means good paying jobs for Washingtonians, contracts for local small businesses, and easier access to supports for our residents who drive with Uber,” Bowser said. “As we continue our focus on job creation and equitable development in all eight wards, we are excited to work hand-in-hand with Uber to spread prosperity and create more pathways to the middle class for D.C. residents.”
Charles Wilson, a former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner and president of Ward 8 Democrats, said it’s always exciting to learn of new businesses opening on the east end of the city.
“Not only to provide long overdue amenities, but jobs for local residents,” Wilson said. “It’s my hope that, as we move forward, there will be a collective conversation as to how we grow as a community.”
In recent weeks, local historian John H. Muller attended two community meetings in Ward 8 where city officials revealed Starbucks had expressed an interest in opening on the ground floor of Maple View Flats, the old Big K site, which is currently a two-story “hole in the ground” with construction of the parking garage underway, he said.
However, soon after, local media reported the announcement in such a way that factual specifics and details were obscured, fostering a growing fear the neighborhood is quickly becoming a destination for an outsider manor and gentry class who will displace current and longstanding residents, said Muller, who lives in the 1400 block of W Street Southeast in Anacostia.
“As with Busboys and Poets, we will have to wait and see if this announcement becomes a reality,” he said. “Although some may be understandably concerned about the arrival of new businesses on lower Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, I feel, as a former Starbucks barista, it would be a positive for the community. There are many smart and hard-working young men and women in the neighborhood who need employment opportunities. Starbucks was a good job for me.
“I know a young man who lives in Southeast who works for a Starbucks downtown,” Muller said. “I think it would be great if he could work at a Starbucks in his neighborhood. When I saw him recently, after the announcement, I told him as much and he agreed.”