NIMBYs Strike in Adams-Morgan, Arguing That Church-to-Hotel Conversion Will Displace Local Businesses

A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 16 2012 3:50 PM

NIMBYs Strike in Adams-Morgan, Arguing That Church-to-Hotel Conversion Will Displace Local Businesses

Here's an odd one from the NIMBY files. Neighborhood groups claim that a plan to convert a church building into a hotel structure should be blocked because it "will displace local businesses and has been planned without sufficient input from the community."

The logic?

Yesterday afternoon, the neighborhood groups staged a small protest in front of the church that's set to become the hotel's lobby. "Businesses that have been here for generations are threatened by this capital flow," organizer Chris Otten said into a microphone to the dozen or so neighbors gathered. "The wealthy customers step out of the hotel and see the small community businesses on Columbia Road, and see the fancy restaurants on 18th Street. Where do you think they go?"
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This would make some kind of sense if we were talking about replacing an apartment building with a hotel, but even if nobody who stays at the hotel ever patronizes a Columbia Road small business they'll still have just as many customers as before.

But the bigger picture question is why should public policy be promoting the interests of incumbent business owners? There's a Korean restaurant on my block that's pretty good and offers a great happy hour bargain. But there's definitely better Korean food out there, much of it just inconveniently far away in Annandale. If the proprietor of a top-notch Korean restaurant in Virginia wants to open a DC location across the street, should the city step in to block that lest the restaurant that's already there be "displaced" by competition? That doesn't sound like a good idea.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

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