Staff Editorial: Ward 3’s planned Wegmans should be a positive for D.C.

Wegmans would go into the existing building's lower level, but not before late 2021. (rendering courtesy of Roadside Development)

In 2015, Washington Post “Wonkblog” reporter Roberto Ferdman tried out the award-winning Wegmans supermarket. He looked carefully for downsides, but had few nits to pick. His article was ultimately titled “Why Wegmans really is the best supermarket in the U.S.,” heaping praise on the grocery’s wide selection, reasonable prices and overall shopping experience. The article pitched Wegmans as a cross between the strong points of Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Walmart.

Of course, for D.C. residents, there is one major problem with Wegmans: The chain’s 90-plus locations have never included a store within the District. Dedicated Northwest customers currently need to travel out to Alexandria or Fairfax in Virginia, or Lanham, Md.

Hopes had soared that Wegmans would be part of the upcoming redevelopment of Ward 4’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center campus, but the New York-based chain stubbed out that possibility last summer.

Now there’s fresh reason for fans to be optimistic, with Wegmans recently confirming plans to occupy part of the Fannie Mae headquarters building at 3900 Wisconsin Ave. NW. The supermarket would be part of a broader project by Roadside Development once the mortgage giant relocates downtown next year.

The Wegmans wouldn’t open before late 2021, but even this far in advance, the news marks a major victory for any resident who lives near the planned store (and any politician who can try to snag credit for the coup). We’re also excited about the location — together with a planned redevelopment of a large commercial building next door, the Wegmans will help fill in a dead zone of retail activity on Wisconsin Avenue between Tenleytown and Cleveland Park.

We have heard concerns from immediate neighbors that everyone else in Washington will flock to their community to shop at Wegmans, further tying up traffic in an already-congested location. While that’s a valid fear, we see cause for optimism. The site is already home to thousands of office workers who come and go during rush hour, whereas Wegmans’ customers would be more dispersed throughout the day.

Also, given that the Maryland and Virginia suburbs are already decently served by Wegmans, we’d expect a healthy percentage of customers to be D.C. residents — some of whom will walk or take public transportation. Moreover, with the store’s launch more than four years away, Roadside Development has plenty of time to sort out traffic, and has already pledged to work with the community to find solutions.