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Congress Heights merchant to retailers: 'What are you so afraid of?'

Last week, NPR's Morning Edition ran a story about Congress Heights, the downtrodden East-of-the-river neighborhood that residents and city officials say is long overdue for a change.

Congress Heights is piloting the Vibrant Streets Toolkit, which helps neighbors figure out which parts of their community are best suited for retail, based on factors like walkability, wide sidewalks, and the perception of safety.

That last bit is what has store owner Donny Seto all fired up. Among a strip of stores where owners sit behind bulletproof glass, Seto's store is inviting and open.

"I get to know the families. I know from the kids, the grandmothers, the parents," he told NPR. "That's why I'm not behind bulletproof glass, whereas a lot of other businesses you go into, everyone has bulletproof glass. Why? What are you so afraid of?"

Heather Arnold, research director for the planning and design firm Streetsense, which helped develop the Vibrant Streets Toolkit, added, "It's almost like if you don't have the confidence in your neighborhood to deserve a vibrant street, then you're not going to strive for it." 

Read more here.
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