Mall likely to house Target, Bloomie's

Photo by Bill Petros/Current File Photo
Bloomingdale's "SoHo" concept was slated for the mall before the property changed hands. Now it's back on the table.
Bloomingdale's "SoHo" concept was slated for the mall before the property changed hands. Now it's back on the table.

By Carol Buckley . . 

Current Staff Writer    

 

The to-be-redeveloped Shops at Georgetown Park is closing in on deals with two large retailers to anchor a revitalized mall, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.

Big-box retailer Target and a Bloomingdale’s boutique will occupy large swaths of the long-troubled Georgetown shopping center, say the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Representatives of Minneapolis-based Target and mall management declined to comment on the reports, and a Bloomingdale’s spokesperson did not reply to The Current by deadline.

The inclusion of Target may spark a long-running debate over the nature of retail in historic Georgetown. A survey by the neighborhood’s business improvement district last year revealed that some see the presence of ubiquitous brands such as Starbucks as a drag on the area’s cachet.

But that same survey noted that some well-known retailers are able to retain a veneer of hipness, and Bill Miller, director of retail leasing for local firm Transwestern Retail, said that Target may be one of them. 

“Target is probably the best in class for a mid-level tenant,” said Miller, a West End resident and expert on local retail trends. Not only does it fill a need in the neighborhood for home goods -- “Where can you buy a spatula in Georgetown?” he asked -- but the popular chain could also be the solution for the mall’s hardest-to-fill spot.

The shopping center’s lowest level -- which sits two floors below M Street and is now occupied by a moribund food court -- is the “biggest, deadest space” in the mall, Miller said. Subterranean spots are hard to sell to tenants, he added, but a store like Target could fill the space -- and draw the customers, he conjectured.

The District now has only one Target, and it sits in a Metrorail-accessible location at Columbia Heights. Transportation and parking will likely be a major point of concern for Georgetown residents when the mall’s redevelopment comes up for review, and the inclusion of a popular store like Target may further those concerns.

If Bloomingdale’s does ink a deal to locate in the Shops at Georgetown Park, it would mark the second time the retailer has attempted to put its first D.C. store in that location. According to sources, Bloomingdale’s is looking to put a downtown-cool “SoHo” spot in the mall, the same concept that was announced in 2008 as a new anchor tenant for 82,000 square feet in a post-redevelopment mall.

But that announcement proved too optimistic, as then-owner Western Development defaulted on a note and lost the mall at auction to New York firm Angelo, Gordon & Co. Vornado Realty Trust was brought on to manage the space.

Even if both retailers sign leases tomorrow, neither will open its doors in Georgetown for at least a couple of years. The design review for a redevelopment will be stringent -- as it was a few years ago when Western Development went through the process. Weighing in will be the local advisory neighborhood commission, city agencies and even the National Park Service.

But even though neighborhood debate is likely to be intense, given the scale of such a project, the ultimate decision to greenlight any project will rest with the Old Georgetown Board and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. Both are made up of federally appointed architects tasked with protecting the neighborhood’s historic character.

This article appears in the March 9 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

0 Comments For This Article

Steph

At last! Something practical retailwise in the densely populated condo neighborhood below M St. Target will do VERY well and generate enough traffic to keep the mall viable. And a lot of this traffic will be with DC resients who don't have cars. Would hope design approval could be expedited for a subterranean space.

Anonymous

YAY!

Anonymous

The mall still needs a food court, on whatever level the DMV will be located after the redevelopment. Foot traffic is nil in the mall as it is, perhaps partly because of the brownout in the mall (minimal lighting except for whatever emanates from the remaining open stores--), but the long-patient tenants who are already there should be given some accomodation, if they actually want to remain there. There are one-of-a-kind, real, individually owned stores still hanging on in there!

I doubt Target will agree to locate in a mall where no outside signage or lighting is allowed, or will the FAC finally bend to the will of the big box store?

Anonymous

Better than nothing, but I am not sold on a Target -- it seems the neighborhood cant make up its mind on whether it wants to be a Columbia Heights or a Rodeo Drive/Beacon Hill. I live in the neighborhood and I'd vote for a Back Bay/Beacon Hill, 5th Avenue, Rodeo Drive, etc. We are already seeing the slow transition of the neighborhood from an alternative fashion/party/college scene neighborhood to a higher end 'fashion district' if you will with higher end stores, restaurants, etc. Going backward to big boxes, and stuff you can buy anywhere doesnt make sense. Going with cafes, high end fashion stores, and other unique boutique items sounds like the natural fit. How about a Saks if they want to go big box?

Anonymous

Not so sure about a Target -- it seems the neighborhood cant make up its mind on whether it wants to be a Columbia Heights or a Rodeo Drive/Beacon Hill. I live in the neighborhood and I'd vote for a Back Bay/Beacon Hill, 5th Avenue, Rodeo Drive, etc. We are already seeing the slow transition of the neighborhood from an alternative fashion/party/college scene neighborhood to a higher end 'fashion district' if you will with higher end stores, restaurants, etc. Going backward to big boxes, and stuff you can buy anywhere doesnt make sense. Going with cafes, high end fashion stores, and other unique boutique items sounds like the natural fit. How about a Saks if they want to go big box?

Anonymous

The total population of 20007 is under 30,000. That hardly seems dense, when compared to density for the city as a whole of 90,000+per sq. mile. A Target would pull from the universities, and from Rosslyn. It'll be busy for back-to-school and for Halloween.

Anonymous

@ Anonymous 10:34
Whether 30,000 is "dense" or not kind of depends on the area you're talking about, doesn't it? 20007 is slightly less dense than the District as a whole: 8800 people/sq.mi. vs. 9800 psm. But Georgetown is a shopping destination for lots of people outside the zip - like just east of it in 20037, or just across the bridge in Rosslyn (22209), with density around 17K, which is just a bit less than the 20010/ColHts/MtP density of 19K psm.

Anonymous

I think a Target could do quite well there - even without metro, that mall is pretty accessible for a lot of areas of DC. The closest Targets are Columbia Heights, Arlington/Falls Church and Route 1, of which only the Columbia Heights one is metro-accessible. Used to work at that mall when it was vibrant (when Conran's was open behind it) and still get kind of sad at how far downhill it's gone, even while the retail in the area around it thrives.

Anonymous

I remember when this mall opened, it was very busy and oh so popular..then all of sudden..plunk.

My personal take is (sorry) Washingtonians aren't really to keen to shop in G'town anymore and I think the decline came with the loss of 'Bohemian' local spots and a dirge of overpriced jean/kitsch 'souk stores. Upscale unique chains types (no I didn't) are now a re-draw for me: Kiehls, Dean & Deluca, Restoration Hdware, Harvest..(in DC these are only in G'town and that is a big factor -otherwise, and they never really seem that busy, so I worry).

Keep the DMV ! sure it likely makes no financial sense but it is my most pleasurable experience with the DC Govt, I went shopping afterwards since I was so elated.

Anonymous

Target = Bad Idea. Is this what Georgetown is willing to be reduced to? To have a big box retailer as you see at countless strip malls that dot this country's sprawling suburbia wastelands. Let's just wipe out all the unique independent shops in Georgetown and make one big generic replica of Tyson's corner. The Shops of Georgetown has so much charm with its brass and glass and has great potential to return to its glory days. Come on people, don't make Georgetown an extension of a suburbia cultural void.

Look it doesn't take a genus, the best way to save the Shops of Georgetown is simple-
MAKE AN ENTRANCE to the mall that is VISIBLE!!

Most people who live in dc or even in Georgetown don't even know there is a mall there because the idiot who redesigned the main entrance some 10 - 15 years ago made the entrance look like an office building entrance. It is camouflaged flush against other store fronts and has poor signage that is only visible from across the street if you looking directly across from it. Even the doors are so heavy that the elderly can't even open the doors!! Not to mention that the mall lights are too dim making the mall look closed.

It's the job of mall to get the customers in the mall. It's the job of the retailers to sell products. Make the entrance visible and accessible, and the retailers will return in droves.

For this to happen, the Georgetown neighborhood association ANC needs to chill and give some flexibility to allow the mall to fix the entrance and the mall needs to get real and realize that it is the invisibility of the entrance that has significantly help destroy the mall over the past 10 years!

When you have people who come to georgetown specifically looking for the mall and have trouble finding the entrance to the mall, that should tell you something. Spend a 100 thousand to make a real entrance and the mall will once again flourish! If you want to go the cheap route, spend $50 to make a mall sign that people can actually see.

nelliebly

Great, great idea! But instead of anchoring a mall we don't need, I wish those two retailers would supplant it altogether. Then we could have a full-scale Target and Bloomie's instead of a boutique.

Anonymous

True about the entrance. I've often wondered why, if the preservationists don't want signage (and the mall management for years tried every which way to add some subtle signage outside, only to be dragged to court)--why at least isn't the facade lighted by subtle spot lights? People who know about the mall and park in the garage won't notice, but passersby must see the mall as a forbidding place now--darkness at the entrance and darkness inside too. So the neighborhood commission and association members (most of whom I would bet have never run a successful business) would rather not make a small compromise about lighting and signage, and have their stubbornness result in--Target?? How about a Dollar Store while we're at it? Welcome to Springfield Mall.

Anonymous

Am I the only one who has heard the rumblings of Gucci and Louis Vuitton signing on at the mall? And Calvin Klein coming as well.

Anonymous

I agree with the comment above; When this thing opened, it was the coolest place in D.C. and I bought flowers for years at Georgetown Park Florists. People could find it then, why do they need outside signage now?

Anonymous

Horrible, Horrible idea!!! Are they trying to ruin all of Georgetown's small businesses! Georgetown is an historic town...not a strip mall. I hope these deals don't go through!

Lower Georgetown Resident

I have to wonder how many of the commentators actually live in lower Georgetown--I do and have owned since 2005. The steady decline of the mall is indisputable; it's a dead zone. The back mall entrance now closes at 7 pm! I'm so happy to see some support from folks for this much needed change. I'm not currently a Target shopper, but give me a place to get the basics and I'll become a convert! Ditto with Bloomingdales--I would love a full scale model--but I can think of plenty of things I'll buy there on a weekly basis. The mall is barely on life support; let's get behind an actual solution and support this investment. I'm one of the most who will be affected by the parking issue--I have a streetside residence below M street and I can't even begin to describe the illegal parking--and I'm 100 percent supportive of this positive development.

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