What’s wrong with Apple’s new D.C. store?

“The city has converted a cultural gem entrusted to the entire city into an exclusive outlet that serves only the few.” — Citylab’s Kriston Capps

From “The Problem With D.C.’s New Apple Store,” found on Yahoo Finance:

For Apple fanatics in D.C., the Apple Carnegie Library is a win. Consumers are bound to appreciate the convenience of a downtown store even if they never take in the corporate programming.

It’s a plus for others as well. Apple fronted the cost for a renovation of the former Carnegie Library building, a boon for its preservation. Apple built a new home for the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., the longtime tenant of the building. And an Apple store makes a great neighbor for the Convention Center next door.

Yet for the city, the Apple Carnegie Library represents a failure of imagination. By leasing the Carnegie Library building to Apple, the city has turned over a prominent cultural asset to an exclusive use: a tech enclave whose products are out of reach for many residents. And not just the 1903 marble building, but also several acres of urban park in the form of Mt. Vernon Square. The arguments in favor of the Apple Carnegie Library don’t justify what should always be an option of last resort—the privatization of public space.

My take: “Serves only the few”? When doors open at 10 a.m Saturday, I expect the 117-year-old Beaux-Arts library to draw the biggest crowds it’s ever seen. As even Capps acknowledges, the building was hardly a thriving public gathering place. For years it served primarily as a private event space.

UPDATE: Grand opening: Apple’s flagship D.C. store (5 videos)

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  1. Ralph McDarmont said:

    Notre Dame Cathedral is next. Tim already offered to help pay for restoration. A Jony Ive dream project.

    May 11, 2019
  2. Fred Stein said:

    So much wrong with Kriston’s assessment:

    “failure of imagination” – Sadly, this city has a lot of problems. Apple will add good retail jobs, better than average retail jobs. If the city has sales tax, that creates another long-term annuity.

    “exclusive use” – Anyone can walk into an Apple store.

    “option of last resort” – I’d bet Apple’s offer was better than any other option the city had.

    May 11, 2019
  3. Jerry W Doyle said:

    “… The city’s historic public Carnegie Library is now a cellphone store.”

    That very last statement written in the article speaks volumes relative to Mr. Capps’ cluelessness of Apple and all things Apple. That statement repudiates his entire article.

    Conservation of cultural heritage involves the protection and restoration using any methods that prove effective in keeping the property in as close to its original condition as possible.

    Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He apparently has little historical understanding of what Apple is and what Apple is involved in doing to retain and to enrich people’s cultural experiences.

    The traditional library system continues to be scrutinize. Throughout the world the question being posited is why maintain expensive to run physical libraries when people are accessing from any location information digitally they need? Public libraries everywhere confront closings because of ever lowering visitors to these facilities.

    Through its complete and thorough restoration of the structure, Apple has taken the Carnegie Library and saved the facility from possible decay and given it the same sense of community (a defining feature of public libraries) where people come together to learn new and innovative ways to access information and experiences they need to enrich their lives. Apple has responded through its intervention with the Carnegie Library to real changes in how people live their lives. Apple’s efforts have given the Carnegie Library a renewed importance to the community it serves.

    Kriston Capps has no understanding of Apple and all things Apple.

    May 11, 2019
    • David Emery said:

      I wonder how Capps reacted to other adaption of historic DC structures, from the National Museum of Women in the Arts to the Trump hotel…. My suspicion is the comments are driven much more by politics of the occupant, than the quality/impact of the renovations.

      May 11, 2019
  4. Robert Paul Leitao said:

    Privatization? Seriously?

    The creation of the Carnegie Library at Mount Vernon Square was funded by a private citizen – Andrew Carnegie (hence the name). It’s one of thousands of “Carnegie Libraries” he funded as a philanthropist.

    The building was leased by the District of Columbia in 1998 to the Historical Society of Washington, DC for 99 years at the rate of $1 per year. In July, 2017, it was announced a “Tri-Party Agreement among Events DC, Apple and Historical Society will be executed, memorializing a co-location of Apple and the Historical Society as party of the reimagined vision of Carnegie Library.” Events DC is tasked with “delivering premier event services and flexible venues across the nation’s capital.”

    After a big investment by Apple to restore the building, the company is leasing a portion of the space for 10 years with an option for two additional 5-year leases. Events DC seeks to bring for-profit attractions to the District (for the purpose of creating economically beneficial commerce) and the Historical Society has a restored facility for its use at Apple’s expense.

    In this instance, it appears Events DC is successfully doing its job, the Historical Society (due to the investment by Apple) can move back into the space it is leasing and Apple gets use of a portion of the building for no more than 20 years after paying for its restoration.

    Let’s get past the sanctimonious vitriol. Apple isn’t purchasing the building. The company has restored the building for the benefit of the public at no public expense and is making use of a portion of the building only. The original construction of the building involved no public expense and its recent renovation was paid for by Apple. Apple’s presence in the building will be alongside the new DC History Center.

    What more do people want?

    May 11, 2019
    • David Emery said:

      “What more do people want?”

      Free iPhones for all! (How soon do you think the Apple/Oprah collaboration will yield free phones under the seats?)

      May 12, 2019

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