Businesses suffer after Walter Reed closing

Since Walter Reed Army Medical Center was closed in late August, businesses along Georgia Avenue Northwest say they have been struggling to stay afloat.

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“Everybody is struggling and I am so scared because I have my kids,” said Kate Singh of Mayfair Liqours.

Locals say the row of businesses, once busy with soldiers and staff members from Walter Reed, now feels empty. Business owners say their daytime business has disappeared.

“Right now 75 percent of my sale is gone. I didn't pay last month's rent for this property,” Singh said.

Restaurants are hit hardest. Alganesh Kidane, the Ethiopian owner of Sunshine bar and lounge, said he usually has 20-30 people around lunchtime. “But it's not a busy area, still we can maintain it, but right now it's in bad condition, I don't know what we have to do,” he said.

Even after the hospital closed, many business owners had hoped for residual lunchtime profits because there construction workers and contractors remain on site. But the gate to Georgia Avenue remained shut.

“We are requesting that they should open this door so they can come and go from there and whatever little biz we can get we can get,” Singh said.

Ward 4 councilmember Muriel Bowser says she has asked the Army to re-open the Georgia Avenue gate instead of sending all traffic through the 16th Street entrance.

“There are probably a couple hundred employees that remain that are part of the maintenance crew and to the extent that it would be helpful for them to enter on Georgia Avenue, we'll push for that,” Bowser said.

Overall, she says the redevelopment of Walter Reed will benefit the community.

“We know that campus could house great retail opportunities that don't exist on Georgia Avenue currently. Dining options as well as housing and big job creation, a center that will have daytime employees,” Bowser said.

Despite the tough transition period, some business owners agree with the hopeful outlook.

“I'm thrilled that we'll be getting some residents and some multifamily units and some shops and all the things you need in a city,” said Stuart Cohen, owner of Discount Auto Insurance.

The city will hold a townhall meeting Wednesday night at the national synagogue at 1600 Jonquil Street in Northwest. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Oct. 5.

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