Like pretty much everyone else in the world, I'm all for filling up empty retail space with awesome stuff. So when I heard about a proposal to build H Street Joodlum (a sweet idea for an event space/restaurant/bar), I perked up my ears, er, my fingertips, actually -- I had to "like" this straight away. More accurately, I clicked "Build It," the equivalent of "like" on the local start-up social network called Popularise, where I came across not only Joodlum, but a whole slew of dope ideas to make DC cooler. People created pages for grilled cheese bars, a bagel shop, a pisco bar... the list goes on and I will read it all (and probably add my own ideas) because I'm newly obsessed.
But besides being fun, Popularise seems to have a higher goal -- to change the way real estate developers commercialize empty storefronts. "Today, neighborhood development is dominated by large institutional companies that use Wall Street money to finance their projects," says Popularise's "About" page. "These companies typically know nothing about the neighborhoods in which they're developing. The decision-makers are out of touch with the realities of what residents like you want, need, and use. They are driven by financial models and spreadsheets rather than an appreciation for what locals want."
Popularize is the city's chance to weigh in. The "About" page asks, "How often have you thought, 'Why doesn't someone turn that vacant building down the street into a bakery, bar, or restaurant?'" It quickly answers, "Now you have the ability to be directly involved in transforming your neighborhood, rather than waiting for someone else to do it."
Of course, if and how developers will listen to the Popularise community is probably still up for debate, but color me intrigued with this idea. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to contribute my own idea to the site -- a Eurasian bakery. One hasn't lived (and then died quickly of a cheese and butter blockage in an artery) until he or she has consumed a khachapuri. DC needs that.