Mall empties for renovation work

Photo by Bill Petros/The Current
The former Barnes & Noble site, also owned by Vornado, will be occupied by a Nike store.
The former Barnes & Noble site, also owned by Vornado, will be occupied by a Nike store.

By Brady Holt
Current Staff Writer

The vast majority of the Georgetown Park mall’s storefronts now stand dark, several having lost their leases effective Jan. 1. Three more are advertising going-out-of-business sales. Intermix has shut down its entrance from the mall’s interior, opening only to the street. And the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles is looking for a potential new home.

But Vornado Realty Trust, which manages and co-owns the Shops at Georgetown Park at 3222 M St., still isn’t saying what exactly it hopes to do with the 30-year-old, 317,000-square-foot mall.

A company spokesperson, who asked not to be named, said Monday that New York-based Vornado is not renewing leases as they expire, largely emptying the mall in preparation for “redevelopment.” The spokesperson wouldn’t say when renovations would take place or what they would entail, but did note that some stores can remain in place while the work is done.

“We’re continuing to work hard to come up with great solutions,” the spokesperson said. “There isn’t a specific plan or framework to talk about except to say that we’re continuing our efforts … to transform the mall as it is today into something else.”

The spokesperson did identify a new tenant for another Vornado-owned building in Georgetown: The former Barnes & Noble at 3040 M St., which emptied at the end of last month, will become a Nike shoe store, as The Washington Post reported yesterday. A Barnes & Noble spokesperson said the firm may seek other space nearby.

The future of the Georgetown Park mall is less clear. Some community leaders have said previously that they believe the mall’s small storefronts will be consolidated into anchor stores, naming Target and Bloomingdale’s as likely tenants. But 10 months after those stores were expected to have been finalized as tenants, nothing has materialized publicly, and the Vornado spokesperson had no comment.

“Do we need more communication? In a short answer, yes,” said Bill Starrels, the advisory neighborhood commissioner representing southern Georgetown.

Starrels said a December meeting with the Georgetown business community, which he attended, was a good start. At that meeting, according to Starrels, Vornado expressed an interest in attracting more big-name retailers to the mall — which he said could attract more shoppers to the Georgetown business district.

The last public activity at Georgetown Park came over the summer, when Vornado applied to the Old Georgetown Board for permission to add windows and entrances to the mall. Some of the changes would optimize space for “a larger format tenant,” the project architect said at the time. Board members rejected those proposals.

The Old Georgetown Board, part of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, must grant approval to exterior modifications to the neighborhood’s buildings, including any signage. Commission secretary Thomas Luebke said there had been no new applications for either the mall or the Barnes & Noble site as of last week.

The Vornado spokesperson wouldn’t say how soon Nike would move in at 3040 M St. and declined to offer any additional information.

The spokesperson also declined to discuss why the company hopes to change the Georgetown Park mall, stating that the firm prefers to “look forward.”

“We’re working through some redevelopment ideas, we’re working closely with the community, and we’re very committed to the project,” the spokesperson said. “I think at the end of the day, there will be a Georgetown Park that really adds to Georgetown.”

 

This article appears in the Jan. 11 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

0 Comments For This Article

Anonymous

Contrast the decaying carcass of Gtown Park (all those dying shops locked inside) with vibrant Bethesda Row and you can see why developers are questioning the 120-year (believe it or not!) history of enclosed shopping malls. Enclosed malls need to become destinations; they require that you intend to visit a shop; you have to enter a closed building to do that. Streets of shops, in the other hand, keep streets lively and can profit from casual passersby. I don't know if the Old Gtown Board will see what I think would be the wisdom of partially dismantling the Gtwn Park 1970s behemoth, tearing open that polite but deadly brick facade and letting in some fresh air. As for Vornado's plans, I think a big Target or Bloomingdale's would be handy for me personally, but I'm not sure it would benefit the small shops at all. Somehow fashioning an open-air shopping center, albeit it one with several levels, could let the light of day in, literally and figuratively, and add life to the south side of M Street.

Anonymous

We are to inherit the Nike blight...and now we are acquiring a pedestrian Big Box Store in this neighbourhood? Time to move, folks, as plastic suburbia, encroaches into a beautiful historic district. But then again, Americans in general are immune to either aesthetics or history....

Anonymous

Wonderful. A historic district is welcoming the Nike Blight and now Big Box stores. Why not have all of American Plastic Suburbia move in? But then again, this country is not long on either aesthetics of history....

Anonymous

I saw Jack Evans at yet another sporting event with shall I say, premium seats...the seats he had must have cost at least 500 each. Where is the public outrage about his use of constituent funds for this?