The intersection of Minnesota Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue in southeast D.C. (Courtesy photo)

A recent retail marketing analysis reveals that Pennsylvania Avenue East in Ward 7 — the portion of the street that goes east from the John Sousa Bridge to the Prince George County, Md., line — has the potential to become a major commercial thoroughfare in the city with the help of the District government.

The Pennsylvania Avenue East Main Street Retail Market Analysis became public in late October with the announcement by the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization (MHCDO). The report focuses on the retail sustainability of present businesses along Pennsylvania East. Jon Stover & Associates prepared the 10-page report for such interested parties as the Pennsylvania East Main Street and the D.C. Department of Local and Small Business Development.

MHCDO President and CEO Babatunde Oloyede said the report emphasizes what needs to be done to upgrade Pennsylvania Avenue East to benefit Ward 7 residents and businesses.

“While we have seen some economic movement in Ward 7, residents are eager for more viable retail that is not only convenient in location but also supports local small businesses as well as mainstream retailers,” Oloyede said. “With this analysis, not only are we bringing awareness to how beneficial it is for Ward 7 to have Pennsylvania East as a Main Street, in working with the Bowser administration and our stakeholders, we are seeking to aggressively push sound economic development that can serve as a catalyst not only for Pennsylvania Avenue East but for future economic growth east of the Anacostia River.”

The report talked about the almost 30,000 vehicles per day traffic of the corridor and the economic needs of the neighborhoods surrounding it such as more full-service grocery stores and sit-down restaurants. It also discussed the economic potential of the three shopping centers alongside Pennsylvania Avenue East, particularly The Shops at Penn Branch and possible commercial uses of the L’Enfant Square Market area close to the intersection of Pennsylvania and Minnesota Avenue., S.E.

Pennsylvania Avenue East statistics

The report relayed that in the Pennsylvania East area, 44 years stands as the median age compared with 36 for the rest of the District. The median household income, $54,272, exists well below the city’s $85,663. The Pennsylvania East area’s population grew by 6% from 2010-2020, the report said, while the District increased by 17%. The report said within a one-mile radius, 47, 377 residents live.

In regard to businesses, the average retail rental space in the Pennsylvania East area consists of $27 per square feet compared to $42 per square feet in the District. The vacancy rate for buildings in the area comes out to 7%, close to the city’s 8%.

The report said a full-service grocery store exists for every 9,500 residents while in neighborhoods east of the river, there’s only one per 52,000 residents. Only 4% of the full-service grocery stores in the District are located in Wards 7 and 8.

The potential of Pennsylvania Avenue East

Oloyede said Pennsylvania Avenue East’s upgrading has to do with branding.

“People from all over the world know about Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “They know about the White House and the areas that are located west of the Anacostia River. We want people to know about the eastern part of the street, too.”

Oloyede said the report can spur the Bowser administration to “attract resources to this highly-traveled corridor.”

“When people travel on Pennsylvania Avenue East, we want to make sure that it has a spillover effect,” he said. “We want people to stop, get out of their cars and shop and dine and to stimulate the economy of the neighborhoods that are close by. We want people to become excited about visiting Ward 7. We feel this part of Pennsylvania Avenue should get the same amount of attention that Wisconsin Avenue gets from the city.”

Tiffany L. Brown serves as the chair of the 7B advisory neighborhood commission that encompasses parts of Pennsylvania Avenue East. Brown said she worked on the report and stands by its findings.

“There needs to be an upgrade of Pennsylvania Avenue and the traffic configurations at the L’Enfant Square should be worked out,” she said. “Parking is a major issue on Pennsylvania Avenue. I have heard people say many times that they would like to shop in the local businesses but can’t find a place to park.”

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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