One of Washington, D.C.'s industrial zones may soon be headed for a makeover. It sits in the center of Ward 5, just off New York Avenue, and a newly formed mayoral task force is looking at make the neighborhood greener and more modern while still keeping it business-friendly. But smack in the middle of all the old industrial buildings, some hopping party venues are putting old warehouses to an entirely different use. Jonathan Wilson talked with Matt Cronin, general manager of the city's largest dedicated concert space, Echostage. The space, located on Queens Chapel Road is currently closed for its own renovations, but as Cronin points out, lots of things are changing in the neighborhood. Following are highlights of their conversation.
On being located in Ward 5's Industrial zone:
"I think when you're dealing with real estate and locations and you're scouting potential areas to start a business, you have to look down the road a little bit. This area is under a lot of development, and the corridor is great in terms of access to suburban customers, with Virginia and Maryland having [Route] 50 connection right into I-95 North, 495, you know, 395 — you can't beat the location as far as accessibility. And it's really being beautified and becoming nicer every week that we see."
The "warehouse" feel:
"You know, it's a Catch-22. In the music industry, people love the warehouse feel. They love kind of like that edgy warehouse district feel. But then there is a comfortable aspect that has to be approached and taken care of. So, you know, we're just going to grow with the neighborhood and the community, and try to make it as comfortable for our neighbors, and as comfortable for the concertgoers as possible."
How fast he thinks the neighborhood will transform:
"Based off of what I've seen in other parts of the city — and this is just me throwing it out there — I would say about five to seven years, probably, before it is really unrecognizable. But you're going to see major construction and changes over the next two years, three years. Five to seven years, that's when you'll see everyone kind of comfortably saying, 'This is completely different than I remember it.' Same thing happened at Columbia Heights, U Street, H Street. That's just the way it works — takes about that much time — in my opinion."
Echostage is set to reopen on March 23, with shows featuring Excision followed the March 29 arrival of current pop dance king David Guetta. The mayor's Ward 5 Industrial Land Transformation Task Force has a year to do its work. It's scheduled to submit a report to the mayor in January of next year.
[Music: "Popped Collar" by Ryan Miller from Safety Not Guaranteed Soundtrack]