A "Capital Commerce" column by Rudolph A. Pyatt Jr. on June 22 was entitled "The City's Retail Core Will Never Be the Same." I could not have said it better myself. The writer's theme was that Washington's downtown areas cannot compete against suburban shopping centers. I suggest the reverse: that successful shopping opportunities in the outlying areas are consistent with a vibrant, thriving downtown. Fortunately for Washingtonians as well as tourists who visit the nation's capital, it is true that our "city's retail core will never be the same"--but in a manner far different from that envisioned by the columnist.
Consider Pennsylvania Avenue. A look at the changes of the past 10 years foretell a bright future. Now in the second decade, no longer is the rebuilding of the avenue a dream. It is a reality.
Start at the White House and the Treasury Building and stroll down our nation's main street to the Capitol. Savor the view from the rooftop terrace of the Washington Hotel. Imagine a reborn Willard Hotel. Like an unpolished gem, its inherent beauty is self-evident albeit not yet realized. The reconstruction process starts on July 29. The 375-room hotel and the famous Peacock Alley will be fully restored and open for business in 1986.
Next, stop at Pershing Park for a summer concert (or winter skate). Then on to Western Plaza for a marching band. These are two of the six new parks planned for the Avenue. Glance over the rebuilt city block that boasts the 800-room Marriott Hotel opening on Feb. 28, 1984; and the newly renovated National Theatre, scheduled to reopen this fall with world-class theater productions. Observe three striking office buildings, including the National Press Club, and a 125,000-square-foot, three-level retail mall that will open next Feb. 29, operated by the Rouse Company, developers of Baltimore's Harborplace.
Move along to the Pavilion at the Old Post Office, a festive marketplace. With its grand opening parade down the avenue this September, the Pavilion will offer--in one of the most spectacular buildings in the city--a smorgasbord of food, shops and continuous entertainment both on the indoor stage and outdoor bandstand. Across the street, the striking atrium and dramatic architecture of 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. features J. J. Mellon's and The Bread Oven, two of the city's fine restaurants.
These developments are not city planners' hopes or architects' dreams; these are shops, restaurants and offices open for business-- buildings in the last stages of construction, for people using downtown Washington every day, all day.
Continuing the walk down the avenue, stroll along new brick sidewalks under the 700 new trees and innovative lighting systems. Pass the site of 1001 Pennsylvania, soon to be one of the city's largest office and retail developments. The project, which will open in the spring of 1986, already has won design awards for the ingenious way its architects have mixed old and new to create an exciting, urbane setting.
Finally, you approach the Market Square district of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation's development program, that portion of the avenue east of the FBI Building and leading up to the Capitol. Here, 1,200 new housing units will be mixed with active retail, hotel, commercial and park life in the last stages of the avenue's development.
Significant changes are under way there even today. The familiar Apex Building will be fully restored and occupied by the end of the year by the world headquarters for the international operations of Sears, Roebuck and Company. Work already is under way next door on an impressive mixed-use complex of 200 luxury condominiums, a 240- room hotel, and private offices within an easy walk of the Capitol grounds.
All of this will be complemented by four beautiful parks, including the recently dedicated John Marshall Park next to the U.S. Courthouse; and the memorial to those who have served the U.S. Navy, the anchor for Market Square Park at 8th Street. Stroll up the 7th Street art corridor, where galleries, historic buildings, shops and residences combine to create atmosphere only found in urban centers. By 1986, when the memorial and residences are completed on the avenue, our walk can end with coffee and dessert in an outdoor caf,e overlooking a concert by the Navy Band.
Yes, things are changing. Many exciting things are happening on Pennsylvania Avenue to ensure that it will "never be the same." But such development is not restricted to the avenue. All over downtown Washington, evidence of rebirth and rejuvenation can be found. A healthy urban core makes for a healthy metropolitan Washington. Let's not worry about choosing between the two. Let's focus our eyes on--and dedicate our hearts to--both.