To Market To Market

My recent trip to San Francisco included a morning stroll along The Embarcadero and the recently redeveloped Ferry Building at the Port of San Francisco. I walked through the market/commercial space–formerly the baggage handling area–on my way to watch the incoming catamaran ferrying commuters from across the water (I don’t really know where they came from, but they were mostly people going to work).

There were a bunch of stalls at the Port with the most incredible array of goods. Artisan cheeses, clams, high-end beef (and high-class hot dogs!), olives, wine, caviar, clams, fish, farmers’ market vegetables, fresh baked sourdough breads and rolls. All foods were super quality–and nary a chain in sight. All I could think of was, “I wish I passed through here every night on the way home.”

I am not an urban planner. But, I am a user of urban areas. I bought my cheese and olive roll and left thinking, “Why does SF have a surfeit of great shopping? What are elements of such success? City support? Income levels? Downtown access? Start-up and risk taking behavior?”

And, most importantly, “Why don’t we have a place like this in Washington, D.C.” (burned down Eastern Market notwithstanding).

Everyone in an urban neighborhood wants to have a great shopping district in walking distance. The District government pays alot of money for it. How do you jump start a great retail/restaurant row? How do you encourage people to frequent great local shops, like Dwellings, instead of the Tar-jay? What makes the local coffee shoppe–like Cafe Sureia a reincarnation of Cup o’ Dreams–viable?

I strive for the authentic–try Uncle Brutha’s hot sauce on Capitol Hill for the BEST, most flavorful hot sauce EVER.

I think, though, that authenticity can’t be manufactured. Darn!

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