Sam’s Park & Shop: The Path Not Taken

In the Cleveland Park Historical Society Archives downtown, I found an interesting article from The Uptown Citizen (1/28/88) showing a rendering of the proposed development that was to replace the then-dilapidated Sam’s Park & Shop.  It also included text describing the project from the developer.  Here is what was being proposed:

“Provisions for proposed project at 3501 Connecticut Avenue, the Park and Shop site, include:

  • Neighborhood-oriented retail shops with no theaters, no hotels and no restaurants. Responsive to the needs of the neighborhood.
  • 254 underground parking spaces, including public parking. Underground loading docks access from the alley.
  • Design sensitive to neighboring buildings on Connecticut Avenue. Commercial/retail, representing 75% of the building footprint, is under 50 feet in height. Residential tower is designed to be in proportion to its Connecticut Avenue residential neighbors and represents 24 percent of the building footprint.
  • 4000 square feet of well-designed landscaping, providing easy, well-lighted flow around the METRO stop – and including a neighborhood information kiosk.
  • A 1000 square-foot area in the commercial portion of the building donated for a community related use.
  • 20 percent of housing available to low and moderate income elderly people and others.
    Contact Patricia L. Daniels, the Urban Group.”


The Park & Shop debate was one of the catalysts that help cement local support for the Cleveland Park nomination to become a protected historic district.

Two things stand out to me about this event that happened 30 years ago:

  1. the perpetual use of that parcel as a strip mall, sitting directly above a Metro station, seems absurd, and
  2. the original proposal, as viewed with 30 year of hindsight, does not appear to be the community killing monstrosity it was portrayed to be.

In fact the benefits of the project seem like just thing our commercial corridor need.  Frankly, the outcome would probably come down to the quality of the design and construction.

Thirty years later this far reaching event deserves an analysis by the community – especially newer residents.  We are living under its shadow and, arguably, suffering its consequences in mediocre retail.

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