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

Philip Elmer-DeWitt

“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.

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