What About Us Small Guys?
The opening of the DC USA mall on 14th Street, with big draws like Target, brought with it the promise from District officials that the city would give some spruce-up money to small ethnic neighborhood businesses that have long catered to multicultural Columbia Heights.
Want some yuca con mojo and a game of dominos? Ramon Compres's deli is the place for you. Have a yen for a pupusa con loroco? There's Lalo's Market. Need a little spiritual help with your love life or the boss you don't like? Julia Grabito's botanica can recommend the right mystical herbs and candles to burn. Pho, anyone? You can find that too among the eclectic group of stores that call themselves the Coalition of Park Road Businesses, between 14th and 15th Streets.
The stores endured years of disruption, dust and gridlock caused by the mall construction and their reward was to be $2 million in city economic development funds so they could rehabilitate old facades and get technical assistance on how to modernize their accounting systems and business plans.
So far, there's been no money forthcoming from the city, said Jose Sueiro, a consultant representing the businesses. "They were going to provide them with some funds...all to keep the diversity and character of the neighborhood," Sueiro said. "But these guys are still on the short end of the stick," Sueiro said.
A spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development promises help is finally on its way. By the end of next month, the city will distribute "a portion of the $2 million" to the coalition. It was never going to be the full $2 million, Sean Madigan said.
"This is a recognition that we want to create a diversity of services in the neighborhood," he said. "We want to make sure we can keep businesses that offer services not offered at Target...and present themselves well on the street and look attractive too."
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