banter | SUBURBANOLOGY
We met one evening outside of Barnes
& Noble in the glossy, high-rent Bethesda
Row district. Bethesda Row has, of course,
become a mecca for well-heeled customers
willing to travel from as far as an hour away
to dine, shop and stroll here. ;e wait for
an Apple Store Genius Bar appointment
is often hours or days long now. “Many of
the stores here that are national brands are
among the highest performing across the
country,” says Arnold, whose company has
done work for Federal Realty Investment
Trust, Bethesda Row’s developer.
;e slow-moving tra;c on Bethesda
Avenue, which locals curse, is a boon for
retailers, Arnold says. Drivers moving very
slowly or stopped in tra;c might spot
interesting merchandise in store windows
and return to shop. Pedestrians leaving one
store often jaywalk from one side of the
street to the other to continue shopping.
Arnold calls that “cross-shopping” and
says it is “the lifeblood of retail districts.”
In the 7200 block of Woodmont Avenue,
we stop to consider the line of restaurants
with sidewalk dining—Bethesda’s ver-
sion of the Champs-Elysées. Dining tables
here, unlike many other places, sit close to
parked cars at the curb, not up against the
restaurants and storefronts. ;at leaves a
wide, inviting swath of sidewalk so pedes-
trians can window-shop as they pass and
maybe drop in to spend some money.
Critics lament that high rents have
driven independent restaurants and
retailers from this part of downtown. “For
people who have studied urban planning
or retail environments, Bethesda Row is
probably the gold standard,” Arnold says.
“It is one of the best.”
Arnold has more than a profes-
sional interest in helping create vibrant
retail districts. Her parents own a chil-
dren’s clothing shop in her hometown
of Danville, Pennsylvania. She has an
undergraduate degree in architectural
history from the University of Virginia
and a master’s degree in city and regional
planning from Cornell University. She
authored Vibrant Streets Toolkit, which
teaches communities how to attract the
right mix of businesses to make neigh-
borhoods more successful and livable.
As Bethesda changes, and new high-rise o;ces and residences are built taller
and in greater numbers, Arnold thinks it
is important for each of the downtown
retail districts to retain their distinct
characteristics so that they complement
one another and don’t compete for the
We walk over to the Woodmont Triangle area of downtown, where some
mom-and-pop retailers or restaurants
in dowdy buildings now share their
block with newly constructed high-rise
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