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Ward 7 Residents Debate New Church’s Chicken Location

Tongues are wagging in a ward located east of the Anacostia River over whether a well-known food franchise should be allowed on a lot off of one of the District of Columbia’s busiest corridors.

Douglas Development, a longtime D.C.-based development company, owns 3780 Minnesota Ave. NE, where the company plans to build a Church’s Chicken fast food restaurant. But Commissioner Tyrell Holcomb, ANC 7F chair, is among area residents who say the fast food restaurant is not welcome.

“We have a shortage of good food options in this ward, and we have many residents who have chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart trouble and too many people are obese,” Holcomb said. “We don’t need a Church’s Chicken on that spot. We need a place where healthy food options are offered.”

Church’s Chicken has a worldwide reputation as serving Southern cuisine-primarily fried chicken-and offers other food options, or sides, such as french fries, fried okra, macaroni and cheese, jalapeno peppers, cole slaw, corn and mashed potatoes. The company got its start in San Antonio in 1952, founded by George W. Church. Church’s now has 1,009 places of operation in North America, South America, Asia, and Europe.

Atlanta houses the headquarters of Church’s. In the District, the only Church’s restaurant operates in L’Enfant Plaza’s food court.

A Domino’s delivery/carryout formerly operated at the Minnesota Avenue location before it shuttered a couple of years ago due to lack of profitability, questionable service, and complaints by customers, as well as public safety issues.

The immediate area surrounding the proposed Church’s location on Minnesota Avenue already has several fast food establishments such as McDonald’s, Subway, Popeye’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts. A Safeway anchors the nearby East of the Park Shopping Center, offering residents access to fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables.

Nevertheless, Holcomb said the community needs to pressure Douglas Development to build a healthy food option.

“Our ANC and the community went back and forth over that location,” he said. “They really wanted to put a Checkers drive-through there, and we pushed back on that. It’s now clear that they are trying for a Church’s Chicken.”

Holcomb wants the Minnesota Avenue property to house food entrepreneurs that offer healthy fare at a reasonable price to residents in the area.

However, some residents don’t agree with Holcomb. DontrellSmith, a Ward 7 activist who lives in Marshall Heights, said he wouldn’t be against Church’s Chicken on Minnesota Avenue.

“Something needs to go there,” Smith said. “As far as healthy food options are concerned, what does that mean? I know we would like a Trader Joe’s or a Harris Teeter to come over here, but until this area gets better, we have to take what we can get. Church’s Chicken is a nationally known business that could provide people dining options and jobs.

“Down the road, we may be more choosey, but for right now I say to Church’s, ‘Come on.’”

Commissioner Cinque Culver, (ANC 7D) represents residents in River Terrace that live close to the Minnesota Avenue property. Culver said, putting a Church’s Chicken on that property would send the wrong message “to the people in the community and the city.”

“There is a misconception that Ward 7 is a $10 ward,” he said. “There are statistics that say 60 percent of the ward goes to Ward 6 to shop and that is at Harris Teeter, and Trader Joe’s and a lot of residents go to Ward 5 at Hechinger Mall to shop, and 24 percent shop in Maryland. There are poor quality food options over here.

“The places we have here give our youth incentive to eat badly. We have an unhealthy culture, and a Church’s Chicken will only make it worse,” Culver said.

Matthew Jemal, senior vice president of Douglas Development who handles the Minnesota Avenue location according to the staff at the company, didn’t return multiple calls made by The Informer.

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