The Underground Retail World of DC’s Apartment Buildings

by Shilpi Paul

The Underground Retail World of DC's Apartment Buildings: Figure 1
The Westchester

City living has its perks, with shops and restaurants usually located within walking distance. For residents of new residential buildings in DC, the amenities are even closer with brand name grocery stores, trendy eateries and coffee shops filling out the street-level retail.

But some of the older residential buildings around town have entire retail ecosystems, with grocery stores, restaurants, hair salons and sometimes even dentists, inside. Here is a look at two buildings in DC that try to provide their residents more than just four walls and a roof.

The Underground Retail World of DC's Apartment Buildings: Figure 2
Retail at The Westchester

The Westchester

The Westchester is an improbably large co-op complex located at 4000 Cathedral Avenue NW. With a scope too massive to take in with one glance, the complex spans four buildings and has more than 800 residents — a suitably-sized population to serve the in-house retail amenities, which include a hair salon and a small grocery store that rents DVDs. The Westchester also has its own restaurant and library, and if the basement is too much of a hike, the Westchester Market also has a delivery option.

The Underground Retail World of DC's Apartment Buildings: Figure 3
The Woodner

The Underground Retail World of DC's Apartment Buildings: Figure 4
The grocery store at The Woodner

The Woodner

Unlike The Westchester, a tony complex that harkens back to a more glamorous DC, The Woodner doesn’t have too many frills. Located at 3636 16th Street NW, the apartment building is aging and spare. However, instead of luxury features, the building has several in-house retailers, many with a medical bent. When UrbanTurf stopped by, the current tenants included a preschool, tax preparer, dentist, podiatrist, family doctor, and a small grocery store.

Here are some of the other older buildings in DC that have interesting on-site amenity options:

  • The Towers condominium at 4201 Cathedral Avenue NW has a library, a hair salon, a grocery store, and a tailor.
  • The Kennedy-Warren on Connecticut Avenue doesn’t have much in the way of retail other than a sundry shop in the garage, but does have a piano bar for residents.
  • The Berkshire at 4201 Massachusetts Avenue NW has a convenience store with a diner, and an on-site dentist.
  • The Dorchester House on 16th Street used to have a dry cleaners, grocery store and video store on its subterranean level, but those retailers have all left over the last decade.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the_underground_retail_world_of_coops_and_apartments/6483


  1. CJ said at 7:41 pm on Thursday January 17, 2013:
    Actually, you're wrong -- the Kennedy-Warren has a sundry shop in the garage that sells beer and wine too.
  1. Mark Wellborn said at 8:52 pm on Thursday January 17, 2013:
    CJ, Thanks, we have updated the post. Mark Wellborn Editor
  1. anon said at 10:21 pm on Thursday January 17, 2013:
    There's one on Connecticut near Van Ness that has a Giant if I'm not mistaken.
  1. EP Sato said at 6:00 pm on Friday January 18, 2013:
    The Woodner was once home to DC's best Italian Restaurant, a family run spot known as "Fios." They closed around 2001, and I'm still missing that place. Also, you guys forgot to mention the Watergate! They've got an entire Safeway in the basement and a mini outdoor shopping plaza for the residents.
  1. Will said at 6:31 pm on Friday January 18, 2013:
    I used to live at the Broadmoor at 3601 Connecticut. There are some of these businesses left, but in its heyday, it had a restaurant with a full dining room, a hair salon, a dentist, and library. The problem with these older-mixed use buildings was the idea that all the residents were a captive market, and that the orientation of the retail did not need to face the street or serve other patrons. Very few of these businesses remain, and they probably only remain due to low rent. The new logic to turn the retail around to face the street is much more sound.
  1. Christine said at 1:51 am on Saturday January 19, 2013:
    Residents of Van Ness East (condo) and Van Ness North (coop) can access the Giant via an underground garage but the store is not in the buildings.
  1. John Muller said at 4:50 am on Wednesday January 23, 2013:
    Just outside of the city limits, Park Ritchie in Takoma Park, MD had its own barbershop years ago (not sure if it's still there.).
  1. emailreader said at 12:46 am on Thursday January 24, 2013:
    There are many other such residential buildings with hidden commercial areas. 4000 Massachusetts Ave NW has a grocery store with a lunch counter, a beauty salon, and a dry cleaner. Since these stores are hidden, it may be hard to report on them!
  1. emailreader said at 12:48 am on Thursday January 24, 2013:
    BTW, the Safeway at Watergate is long gone. Anyway, the stores at Watergate are not hidden. They are open to the public, entered through their own entrances, not inside the buildings.
  1. kd said at 7:42 am on Wednesday December 11, 2013:
    The Towers used to have more back in the day: grocery Store, drug store, hair salon, dry cleaners, restaurant. Oh, and mail delivered twice a day. (I lived there from '59-'73)

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