K Street logic

See “Contested development” for news about a campaign to launch a ballot measure to reverse the city council’s K Street subsidy deal.

It is simply amazing that, for all the push to “think outside the box” and really do something different where K Street redevelopment is concerned, the best the city and developer David Taylor have offered is more of the same: a couple of nightclubs and an “upscale” pizza place.

Not to denigrate developer David Taylor’s ability to make those clubs—a “mermaid” bar and an “over-30” club—and pizza place into fun, interesting spots, but let’s get real here. None of the elements in this proposed redevelopment deal are particularly new, fresh or original. The ideas aren’t even merely trendy.

Of course, the willingness of the city to go all out for concepts that are clearly not new, different or fresh—let alone urban—makes clear exactly what demographic the powers that be are aiming for on K Street. These suggested “nightspots” will further cement K Street’s businesses as entertainment for the convention crowds, out-of-towners visiting because they’ve got business with the state or a chance to schmooze with fellow professionals. There’s nothing wrong with providing some activities down the street from the two big hotels and the convention center.

But we’re not falling prey to City Hall’s delusion that anyone will come downtown specifically to see women dressed as mermaids (and where, pray tell, are the mermen in this plan?) swim behind glass while consuming high-priced cocktails.

And really, an “over-30” club called “Frisky Rhythm”? Both the name and the concept smack of desperation; it sounds like the perfect place for people long in the tooth and short on cutting-edge night-life plans. Even those of us in the demographic target aren’t going to admit it—instead, we’ll reach for the Grecian Formula and head for The Park Ultra Lounge.

In short, these ventures won’t bring people downtown after dark, and they don’t strike us as more likely to attract the after-theater crowds than the restaurants and clubs already in place. All they’ll do is create competition among established (and not subsidized by the city) nightspots for the already limited number of people in the downtown area after dark. More of the same—even more of the same in mermaid suits—won’t bring in new crowds.

On top of all these logical reasons to oppose the plan, there’s the news last week that some citizens are already planning to collect referendum signatures to fight the development deal. Yes, we understand that the city has an obligation to work with Taylor; that doesn’t mean we have to accept second-rate ideas for redevelopment of a fragile area.

The city has been struggling to reinvent K Street for an incredibly long time. We suggest slowing down where this deal’s concerned. Go back to the drawing board and come up with some concepts that will add something new and different to the mix. Be clear about the goal.

It’s simply not worth it to jump into two more clubs and a pizza place, only to find that in a short time we’ll be back to reinventing K Street yet again.