Saturday, July 28, 2018

Has the power corner at Bethesda Row moved to Amazon Books?

Buskers still lurk on the plaza outside the former Barnes & Noble bookstore at the corner of Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues. But as the lingering crowd there grows smaller, musicians have - for the first time - been setting up on the smaller plaza outside of the new Amazon Books store (or as you see in the video here, on Bethesda Lane around the corner from Amazon). The smaller plaza always had a nice fountain running like the Barnes & Noble plaza, but it was often a ghost town when Urban Country had the corner spot at Arlington Road and Bethesda Avenue.

The lengthy construction of Anthropologie in the Barnes & Noble space is changing public behavior, and its unclear if that corner can regain its old status when the store and Terrain Cafe open this fall. Anthropologie by nature appeals to a much narrower demographic than a large-inventory bookstore, and you won't be able to simply hang out like you could at Barnes & Noble. Foot traffic could well be less than Amazon Books.

Amazon Books indeed has fairly good traffic considering what a tough spot they are in. After a sluggish start during which the store almost looked like it wasn't open from the outside, bright lights were installed that, in some cases, literally aim at passersby and motorists like a light cannon. Traffic began to pick up with the new lighting, and a few weeks ago, for the first time, I saw a music duo and a few spectators passing time on the Amazon corner.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos recently made a surprise but low-key visit to the Bethesda Row store, according to a source. One thing majorly missing is the small coffee shop/cafe that was supposed to be part of the Amazon Books bricks-and-mortar experience. Without it, you really can't hang out, and the store is simply too cramped to want to, anyway. They do have a nice selection of gadgets, toys and games, which Barnes & Noble previously provided in greater quantities, minus the Amazon tech.

But despite the few disappointments, there is a real question as to whether the power corner at Bethesda Row has moved, and that certainly presents an additional challenge to Anthropologie. Like many public use patterns at new urbanist developments, it is fascinating to watch how the public uses the available space, and not necessarily in the way the designers intended.


Anonymous said...

I’m surprised buskers are allowed to play within Bethesda Row on Bethesda Lane, as it is a privatey owned public space (POPS), owned by Ferderal Realty. Perhaps since Redwood and the Cork and Fork have closed, no retailers are present to complain about the musicians.

Some of these musicians are quite good, and some seem to be stuck in a very repeatitive loop of the same guitar riff, playing the same one or two songs over, and over and over. I wish they would expand their song list. Yes Rick, I am talking about you. I do miss the guy that played the electric violin. He often drew a very large crowd, with his hauntingly beautiful looped and layered performances.

Anonymous said...

"[B]right lights were installed that, in some cases, literally aim at passersby and motorists like a light cannon."

Nope. LOL

Robert Dyer said...

9:09: *YEP* I know it's hard for you to know what's going on when your bosses don't get around to Bethesda that often, but anyone who has driven up Arlington Road and stopped at the light at Bethesda Avenue facing the store knows exactly what I'm talking about.

6:21: Yes, there are definitely some who need to expand their repertoire. I also don't understand what regulates the space for these acts - what happens if somebody else sets up in the same area with a louder amp than the current guy? What's to stop them?

Anonymous said...

I hope that Robert tips those buskers. But sadly, I can't picture him doing that.

Anonymous said...

The "center" will move back again to old B&N when Anthropologie closes and Amazon relocates. Much better spot for them on multiple fronts.

Anonymous said...

I'm skeptical. I guess if the outdoor plaza and Cafe are well executed.

Seems like Amazon books would have wider interest, but missed not have a coffee bar.