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Mall empties for renovation work

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.