Greater Greater Washington

Retail


Are urban big box stores good or bad?

Topher Mathews found out what Vornado plans for the now-closed Georgetown Park Mall. They hope to attract 2 restaurants for the side of the building overlooking the C&O Canal and have lined up a number of large chain stores for the rest: TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, Michaels and an expanded J. Crew. Is this news welcome or disappointing?


Image from Vornado.

The chain retailers will each have entrances on the street rather than an interior mall-like layout, as was the case before. That makes sense because Georgetown already has a main street to walk along and see shops: M Street.

Malls were designed to replicate the main street experience; when there's already a main street, it's just a less-trafficked side street, and its 3 levels, winding paths and dark layout made it inconvenient and unappealing.

Mathews isn't so enthusiastic about which stores will fill the space. He says:

Essentially, when Vornado is done with it, the bulk of the mall will have been converted into a couple big box stores that have all the charm and destination-appeal of Rockville Pike.
Design is the biggest problem with most big box stores

The biggest problem with Rockville Pike, though, is its urban form. Each shopping center has a giant parking lot between itself and the road, and there often aren't any connections at all between centers. That means it's very difficult to shop there any way other than driving to one center, parking, driving to another, and so on.

The fact of modern retail is that for most physical products, people want to go to a large store with a lot of selection. It'd be nice to have a small crafts store near my house, but the fact is that I don't go to such a store often enough to support having it, and the individual items don't cost that much (or if they do, it's cost-prohibitive for many people).

A small crafts store would not have very many different kinds of fabric, picture frames or Christmas ornaments. People don't want to travel from one small store to another in different neighborhoods to hunt for what they want; they'll either go to a superstore or shop online. I've tried the Paper Source in Georgetown several times for the types of items it has, and sometimes found great things there, but also sometimes made a trip without finding what I needed.

There's no Michaels in DC today. The nearest one is in Seven Corners, and the next closest in Rockville, on the Pike. Having one in Georgetown would let people fulfill their craft needs in a place where they could drive, take the Circulator or Metrobus, or bike or walk from many neighborhoods.

What's bad about many of the big box plans for Ward 5 is not that large stores are coming to Ward 5, but that they're building suburban format stores. That Home Depot could take up a tenth of the space if it had a garage and a multi-story building. The rest of the land could house people who can shop there and take the Metro to work. The Aldi doesn't contribute to the nearby walkable neighborhood, and the New York Avenue Walmart is the worst design of DC's 6 proposed stores.

Large discount stores may not be best for the tax base

On the other hand, some of these new stores may bring in less tax revenue per square foot than more upscale stores. At one point, DC was considering a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) deal to lure Bloomingdale's instead of TJ Maxx. It didn't seem to make sense at first: if Bloomingdale's would pay less rent, then how would a TIF pay for itself, but if it brings in more, why does Vornado need any kind of incentive?

Someone directly involved with TIFs, who wasn't authorized to speak on the record, explained that a store like Bloomingdale's actually would pay less rent, but generates more sales tax revenue. I wasn't able to see detailed numbers to know if that makes the TIF worthwhile, but it's certainly possible that one store could have a larger number of dollars in gross sales but lower profits.

Stores with cheaper goods not only make their profits by selling more, but also by having fewer staff and less elaborate merchandise displays. Those savings could help them afford higher rent but don't affect the sales taxes the city brings in (and cut down on potential jobs for residents).

That may or may not have made any kind of tax break worthwhile, but it does point out a paradox in retailing: what's best for a landlord may not be the same as what's best for the District budget. And as Mathews notes, what's best for a neighborhood may be different than either of those.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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Georgetown has been going downhill for the past 5 years or so, and this is just a continuation. Instead of taking what was a really mall, they are junking it up.

I do wonder how the residents of Georgetown park feel about this.

Given the traffic at Dean and Deluca, I can't imagine them staying in business either.

by charlie on Sep 17, 2012 2:21 pm • linkreport

Wow. Could gtown be more irrelevant? What a horrible idea. So odd that dc's most beautiful neighborhood strictly caters to suburbanites. No creativity, no vision. If I'm a non-awful retailer on m street I'm looking for the exit signs

by Bananas on Sep 17, 2012 2:27 pm • linkreport

Michael's would be nice. Right now, the wife and I have to drive way the hell out to get crafts stuff, or just buy it online. Personally, I'm retail-agonistic: as long as the design form is inherently urban in nature, I say allow the market to decide what businesses should be open there.

by Matt on Sep 17, 2012 2:31 pm • linkreport

While I agree regarding Georgetown's decline, I also agree with the author that big box stores can have a place in cities. As an urbanite without a car, I generally do most of my shopping online. However, if I were to go to the store, I would certainly prefer a cheaper store with more options to an expensive boutique. I know this will anger some who want to support more mom and pop shops, but this is the economic reality of the world we live in.

Nice article.

by Sam on Sep 17, 2012 2:31 pm • linkreport

D&D once was fairly unique. Now there a re a great many places that sell fancy groceries of one sort or another. There problems have little to do with Gtown, which otherwise seems to have no problems attracting high end retail.

TJMaxx is the same thing as Marshall's (same owner, largely the same merchandise), which already is in DC. I doubt that many people are missing Michael's,. If they were interested in a close-in clientele, they would have wound up somewhere around Pentagon City. The previous plan for Target and Bloomingdale's made more sense given the nearby retail mix. Georgetown is heavily dependent on tourist, including foreign tourists--having destination brands and stores is especially important. Target would be good for providing everyday stuff but with a relatively classy brand. A place that sells low quality crafts isn't quite the same thing.

by Rich on Sep 17, 2012 2:37 pm • linkreport

What else could they put there? A small store model didn't work, you aren't going to be able to tear the building and build smaller buildings anyway.

My problem with big box stores are also mainly with form. People do enjoy Georgetown for the particular shops but it's main advantage is its form. Many people were shopping at American Eagle and the Nike store as they are at Lacoste or the more expensive stores.

Moreover, if you're going to have the magical perfect mix of retail then you need a very top heavy management of the whole M street block which seems to me to carry the same risk of becoming stale, bland or disneyfied.

by drumz on Sep 17, 2012 2:38 pm • linkreport

Michael's would be nice. Right now, the wife and I have to drive way the hell out to get crafts stuff, or just buy it online.

You hear this argument a lot, but look at it this way: if you lived in the 'burbs, chances are quite good you'd have to drive 20 minutes to some strip mall to go to Michaels. As it is, you have to drive way the Hell out to some godforsaken strip mall in the 'burbs to go to Michaels. If, hope against hope, Georgetown lands a Michaels, you'll get to drive 20 minutes to Georgetown to go to Michaels.

As far as the "keeping taxpayer money in DC", the only way that argument holds water is if a Michaels would capture more revenue than some other, less suburban use--which seems unlikely.

by oboe on Sep 17, 2012 2:39 pm • linkreport

The biggest problem with Rockville Pike, though, is its urban form.

One thought: the reason companies open outlets on Rockville Pike is *because* of its urban form. A giant, soulless box is often a pre-requisite for landing these places.

by oboe on Sep 17, 2012 2:42 pm • linkreport

"Are urban big box stores good or bad?" It depends on the location and as you point out, design. Macy's, Woodies, and others where like a big box stores of today even though their aesthetics where a couple of notches above exposed webb truss joists with duct work. Georgetown's fine fabric dosen't seem like the right fit for big box stores while downtown's fabric seems a better fit, but even then, the strategy used at Mazza Gallerie or Ellsworth Drive could be finnessed for better results. In both those cases they had the perimeter stores open-up to the street while keeping the bigger tennants burried with-in the box.

Cities need to be flexible enough to handle whatever is thrown at them from a retail perspective, and may the best store win.

by Thayer-D on Sep 17, 2012 2:54 pm • linkreport

the bulk of the mall will have been converted into a couple big box stores that have all the charm and destination-appeal of Rockville Pike.

The funny thing is (and maybe this is because I am an uncouth suburbanite) that I would far rather spend time on Rockville Pike than in Georgetown. Sure, Georgetown has the history and architecture, but Rockville has authentic Chinese food at a reasonable price. And if Rockville Pike becomes a boulevard as promised, I can get my urbanism fix too.

Honestly, I have no problem with these stores coming to an urban neighborhood. It's great to shop local and I try to support local businesses, but big-box and chain stores do have a place as well. And better that they come in an urban format in a neighborhood that you can reach without a car. I'd say this makes Georgetown MORE relevant to the city and region, not less so.

by dan reed! on Sep 17, 2012 2:56 pm • linkreport

Can anyone positively and forcefully asserting that Georgetown is in some kind of decline back that up with data?

If not, it's an personal observation, which I can easily and wholly negate by asserting the opposite.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Sep 17, 2012 3:18 pm • linkreport

I would love to go to some strip mall on Rockville Pike and measure the sidewalk in front of the stores, and compare with Georgetown's teeny-tiny sidewalk on M St. It's great to have sidewalk-facing stores, but my god is that sidewalk narrow and crowded. And BTW, Barnes & Noble is gone from Gtown, but lives on at Montrose Crossing (12089 Rockville Pike). And while Gtown may not seem as "hot" as trendy H St or still-growing 14th St, it does have a lot of attractions, like Cady's Alley, the newish waterfront park, Washington Harbour (unique in the city, and now with a new fountain), the historic but underutilized canal, and the city's most-popular cupcake shop (plus our only Apple store). And I'm sure I'll be eagerly accumulating lots of holiday crap from Michael's once they finally open.

by M.V. Jantzen on Sep 17, 2012 3:27 pm • linkreport

Should they ever build a Georgetown Metro stop, the metro should be underneath and open to the Georgetown Mall. Like Manhattan Mall in NYC, the Georgetown Mall would benefit from having customers and tourists alike have to walk pass their stores to exit the mall.

The difficulty with opening a TJ Maxx and Michael's is that the clientele who frequent such stores likely never go shopping without their car. Big box shopping in Georgetown will prove to be quite the frustrating experience for the drivers amongst us.

by cmc on Sep 17, 2012 3:39 pm • linkreport

@ cmc: Big box shopping in Georgetown will prove to be quite the frustrating experience for the drivers amongst us.

Big box shopping in Georgetown will prove to be quite the frustrating experience for the drivers amongst us.

by Jasper on Sep 17, 2012 3:46 pm • linkreport

If you prefer to do drive to your shopping and you're TJ Maxx's number 1 fan wouldn't you still just choose to go to the one that is easier to drive to anyway?

by drumz on Sep 17, 2012 3:51 pm • linkreport

Retailers make their own cost/benefit decisions, but I would have loved to see an REI in that mall. They could probably have done some insane climbing wall inside the central atrium, and being close to the bike paths, the canal, and the river, it seems like their ideal mix of amenities for their flagship-style stores. You can sell a lot of kayaks, bikes, and running shoes if people have a place to try them out right outside your doors.

I wonder if Vornado had any sort of conversation with them.

by Will on Sep 17, 2012 4:08 pm • linkreport

@Will,
Brilliant.

by cmc on Sep 17, 2012 4:33 pm • linkreport

Wish the big's were going downtown at Metro Center - much like the old emporiums like Woolworth's and Kresge's that populated downtowns in the 20th C. As someone stated above, big box retailors are really just department stores in plainer buildings, except for urban locations - Target in downtown Minneapolis and (soon opening on State Street) in Chicago in the historic Carson Pirie Scott Department Store designed by Louis Sullivan.

by GWalum on Sep 17, 2012 4:33 pm • linkreport

It would have been best if they made the space flexible with office or retail rather than trying to get at just big stores. I understand that office would require more construction, but for those upper levels, it would make the most sense.

by Adam L on Sep 17, 2012 4:42 pm • linkreport

@Will, there is a Patagonia store right around the corner from the GT mall

by Tina on Sep 17, 2012 4:43 pm • linkreport

Yes, REI would be great. All of the other stores should be chosen and approved by the Georgetown ANC.

by aaa on Sep 17, 2012 4:43 pm • linkreport

D&D once was fairly unique. Now there a re a great many places that sell fancy groceries of one sort or another.

Great! Can you please tell us what and where they are?

(Please don't say Whole Foods.)

by Jazzy on Sep 17, 2012 5:43 pm • linkreport

J&R Electronics would work well in the mall space, counterbalance the Apple Store, and save us all three trips a year to lower Manhattan.

by Turnip on Sep 17, 2012 6:13 pm • linkreport

Can anyone positively and forcefully asserting that Georgetown is in some kind of decline back that up with data?

No, because on any of the usual objective measures, Georgetown has been experiencing a 20 year upswing and this latest move is a continuation of Georgetown's direction.

Look, I understand that Georgetown has nothing to offer even the mildly hip crowd, much less hipsters. But, it is successful if you look at it objectively rather than through the lens of personal preference.

The shopping experience in Georgetown is hands-down better than the shopping experience almost anywhere else in DC Metro. I live less than 3 miles from what's supposed to be one of the world's greatest shopping malls in Tysons. My wife almost never goes there (frankly, I think she's scared of it) and would rather metro or bike (and yes, sometimes drive) 9 miles to georgetown to shop. This is why the demand for retail space in Georgetown reaches ever greater fevered pitches and rents are on a one way trip to the moon.

Georgetown is simply the best, most successful, and hottest retail space in DC Metro right now. The clientele can't be beat, sales per square foot are terrific, and the average spend per purchase is high.

The lower end places like TJ Maxx that got space in Georgetown are lucky. My guess is they are able to afford the rent because they are buying into a distressed situation where circumstances are causing rents to be below market. And, the inside of Georgetown Mall isn't exactly prime space on M ST or what the Georgetown shopping experience is all about. In fact, the G-Mall represents the anti-thesis of the highly coveted g'town experience and is what shoppers are trying to get away from when they come from all over.

So, are big box stores good? Well, on one hand they serve the needs of the people. On the other hand, they don't pay the kind of rent that fancy boutiques will, but even georgetown can't just be about fancy boutiques. Overall, I'd say georgetown could use a little retail diversity and these big box stores bring some of that. As long as they stay hidden inside a well disguised mall, they won't bring down the neighborhood, historic character, and georgetown cache.

by Falls Church on Sep 17, 2012 6:58 pm • linkreport

and that's the problem: You are defining Georgetown as a retail space, or as M St.

(I'd suggest your wife check out the area near Metro Center. Much better shopping really. Ever since the j crew opened there my GF won't go to Georgetown)

Georgetown shopping is going to the foreign-devils. Zara, Massimo Dutta, the new suitsupply, RL, Jack Wills. Hell, even Barbour when people are in there. Not to mention Apple.

Nothing wrong with high-end retail, but not really good for the local community or as an anchor. Commercial leasing is way down, and you are losing a hell of lot of restaurants.

The residental market in Gtown is very messed up, mostly again skewed by a lof a 3 million dollar houses. But on the actual places where people live?

This is not a bad thing. All neighboorhoods change. Managing that change and planning a bit for the future is really neccessary. Other than acting as a slighly cooler outlet for Rosslyn workers, I dont' see much planning and a lot of resistance. Turning all the empty commerical space into residental might be an answer.

The local of DC is slowing shifting east, and in Georgetown moving back up to R st and Glover Park.

by charlie on Sep 17, 2012 7:09 pm • linkreport

Interesting observation, Charlie. Georgetown peaked at more or less the same time as the downtown shopping area bottomed out - sometime in the 1980s.

by Frank IBC on Sep 17, 2012 7:48 pm • linkreport

@FrankIBC; very close. Or whenever they filmed St. Elmo's Fire.

by charlie on Sep 17, 2012 8:01 pm • linkreport

"Downtown" retail DC is Pentagon City. We sort of slipped letting that go across the river.

Target or this blend of discount stores will serve people who actually live in Georgetown and Foggy Bottom and have trouble finding affordable dry goods.

by Tom Coumaris on Sep 17, 2012 9:04 pm • linkreport

@Charlie

Metro Center may be where my wife gets her actual shopping done -- like buying suits for work -- but Georgetown is where she *likes* to go shopping even if she doesn't buy as much. Shopping at Metro Center is functional and practical but as an experience, is nothing particularly unique. But the shopping experience in Georgetown can't be beat -- the historic charm, waterfront, canal, and overall pleasantness makes it totally different than shopping at metro center. Metro Center is a place for seriousness. Georgetown is a place where you feel on vacation.

No, georgetown as a retail corridor or a place to live did not peak in the 1980s. It probably peaked as a commercial office center at that time. Georgetown's retail and residential property was probably the first in the area to get back to pre-crash levels and demand remains as robust as ever.

by Falls Church on Sep 17, 2012 9:28 pm • linkreport

When I say "peaked" I don't mean "crashed and burned immediately thereafter, never to return again". I just meant that it was no longer the center of people's existence as it was in the 70s and early 80s, as other areas developed.

During that time, Georgetown was THE place to go on Friday and Saturday nights, but in decades that followed, Adams-Morgan, downtown, the Golden Triangle and Bethesda became alternate destinations.

by Frank IBC on Sep 17, 2012 10:17 pm • linkreport

Nothing wrong with high-end retail, but not really good for the local community or as an anchor. Commercial leasing is way down, and you are losing a hell of lot of restaurants.

Yeah, but most of those restaurants sucked, anyway. Georgetown has been a restaurant wasteland for a while-- they mostly cater to tourists and parents of Gtown students who have very boring tastes. Nothing wrong with that, exactly, but you could lose have the restaurants and replace them with new ones, and no one would notice the difference.

by Tyro on Sep 17, 2012 10:29 pm • linkreport

well, the headline and the article don't distinguish between the box and what's in it.

They vary significantly +/-, e.g., Century 21 vs. TJMaxx, Macys vs. Value City, Target vs. Walmart, etc.

But urban centers have dealt with "big boxes," in the form of department stores, since the 1860s.

Georgetown Park's failures have to do with the fact that people don't want to be buried in a mall, they want to be on the street. That's the advantage of a big box there, they become anchors, absorb most of the space.

+ 1 to the people who have mentioned that the sidewalks aren't wide enough in Georgetown, especially on M St.

Georgetown needs a comprehensive destination development plan, but I don't have any connections there. Meanwhile I keep putting the idea out there vis-a-vis Capitol Hill.

Surprisingly, Edens & Avant, a traditional shopping center owner-operator, has shown they can be innovative, something that I didn't expect, with CityVista, Union Market and the Mosaic District in Merrifield. Vornado not so much.

WRT the suggestion for an REI cf. this place in Orange County;, CA (never been, next trip out...)

- http://thecampsite.com/shops
- http://thelab.com/
- http://retail.blog.ocregister.com/tag/the-camp/

Clearly Macy's isn't interested in putting another Bloomingdales close to Friendship Heights.

And for whatever reason, Nordstroms, not just because of Pentagon City, doesn't seem to have any interest in locating downtown or in Georgetown.

- http://therealdeal.com/blog/2012/06/28/nordstrom-exec-extell-tower-better-for-us-than-hudson-yards/

maybe in a few years if in-migration trends continue to favor the city.

Probably L&T could be interested in a trade that would likely involve closing their store in Friendship Heights, but it would involve a lot of players.

With a lot of the designer discount companies going out of business, there aren't many higher quality players even around anymore and capable of absorbing the space.

Probably Vornado could have found other tenants if they really really tried, but they probably didn't really really try.

They have the heft in the biz to make persuasive arguments with companies they already have established relationships with.

cf. (not Vornado, but another company) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/12/realestate/commercial/samuel-p-latone-ii.html?ref=realestate

by Richard Layman on Sep 17, 2012 10:29 pm • linkreport

@Rlayman, Topper makes a good argument that Vornado is just acting as an agent for the actual owners, who specialize in distrissted properties.

Somehow people can't wrap their heads around when firms that specilze in distrissed properties buy the largest retail spaces in the area, good things are NOT coming to you.

Georgetown has been rotting a long time. The sidewalks. Too many buses. Lack of a long term plan. Lack of a resident population. And not enough retail focused on stuff residents want to buy. Does this sound familar?

@FallsChurch; tell you wife next time she goes by the canal to look up and look at the "For lease" signs. There are everywhere; I walk by there almost everyday.

by charlie on Sep 17, 2012 10:40 pm • linkreport

What property is Vornado doing a great job with in the region?

by selxic on Sep 17, 2012 11:25 pm • linkreport

hmm, I thought Vornado owned the property. I guess not.

Vornado in this region is mostly Charles Smith Co., which developed Crystal City. So everything there. They've never been known for great retail (Crystal City Underground). I don't think they developed Pentagon City or the Costco shopping center, but maybe.

by Richard Layman on Sep 18, 2012 7:29 am • linkreport

Georgetown Park is owned by Western Development Corp.

Vornado owns Springfield Mall and Manassas Mall, and a number of other properties in the area.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vornado_Realty_Trust#Washington_D.C._Office

Pentagon City (Fashion Centre) is owned by Simon Property Group.

by Frank IBC on Sep 18, 2012 7:51 am • linkreport

A complaint about Georgetown from the mid-1980s - "it's become nothing but shoe stores!" Ah, memories...

by Frank IBC on Sep 18, 2012 7:52 am • linkreport

from topper' site:

" It would come as no surprise that they’re not interested in the long haul seeing as they’re simply acting as an agent for the mall’s actual owner: Angelo, Gordon & Co. This firm specializes in distressed properties, an investment strategy that normally involves buying a property cheap, tarting it up and turning around and selling it for quick buck."

and here, they got it in 2010:

http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/stories/2010/06/21/daily46.html?page=all

by charlie on Sep 18, 2012 8:32 am • linkreport

I am sure glad this isn't *my* property to bring back to life.

Whatever goes there will have to appeal to the people that walk the street -- which is mostly tourists and college students with parents. I can't imagine the residents have been inside that mall for quite a long time, and given how much $$ they have got, that represents an opportunity.

Besides the social safeway, where do the residents buy food in Georgetown? Seems to me this building would make a great market like Reading Market in Philadelphia or Faneuil Hall in Boston. And it would be good for tourists too.

by goldfish on Sep 18, 2012 8:48 am • linkreport

@Will - totally agree. Thought it would be good in the mall or the old Barnes and Noble.
@Tina Patagonia is great, but it is NOTHING compared to REI (which carries Patagonia among other brands).
Will be interesting to see how this shapes out in 5 years.
As for the eastern location for a restaurant - please bring Arlington's Northside Social there!

by andy2 on Sep 18, 2012 8:51 am • linkreport

Urban big box stores are not inherently bad (or good). As others have pointed out, it is all about the design of the building and the location. There is obviously a demand for big box stores in urban areas (check out the picked-over selection at the Columbia Heights Target if you don't believe me), so why not satisfy the masses? I personally enjoy being able to pick up groceries, housewares, and clothing all in one stop (this reduces driving too). Although big boxes often hurt small businesses, I think they can actually have the opposite effect in the urban context (provided that they are not directly competing), by increasing foot traffic in the area.

by Rebecca on Sep 18, 2012 9:38 am • linkreport

wrt Charlie's recounting of the history of the sale, the mall got screwed in the years of fighting between Western Dev. (Herb Miller) and Eastbanc (Anthony Lanier) over who owned it/could buy it (claim of a right of first refusal) and it drifted into foreclosure, not unlike how Douglas Dev. has purchased buildings/notes at 8th and H and the old Hecht's Warehouse.

And because it was during a dip in the market, Angelo, Gordon could jump in when if the property were up for sale now, likely they would be outbid.

It would have been interesting had Streetsense or a similar firm or the guy who is running retail recruitment for CityCenterDC (he worked for Rouse decades ago, did the relaunch of retail in Grand Central Station there recently, etc.) taken on the project rather than Vornado. (Another instance of innovation has to be in your DNA in order to do good urban projects and when you don't get the right people, you're f*ed, e.g., it reminds me of Foulger Pratt at GA and MO Avenues...)

Re the Faneuil/Reading Terminal Market, actually those specific concepts I don't think would work, as they are really food markets mostly, but Eataly could as it is an experience and more about consuming prepared foods.

Note that they will be putting a food hall in at CityCenterDC.

by Richard Layman on Sep 18, 2012 10:16 am • linkreport

@Richard

The Lab in Orange County is an interesting precedent to bring up. I have been there, and I think it's a really interesting attempt at placemaking (particularly geared to the "alternative" crowd) in a retail environment otherwise set up for high-end and/or mass-market consumers (it's maybe 2 miles from South Coast Plaza, which is like Tysons Corner Center but even bigger). It started as a mall (or "anti-mall") but the developer (and the city of Costa Mesa)'s goal is to turn it into a catalyst for creating an artist community.

This isn't really an urban precedent so much as a suburban one, so I'm not sure how it could be applied to Georgetown. The developer, Shaheen Sadeghi, did do a similar project in Hollywood that might be worth looking at - though you could call it a Cady's Alley with Urban Outfitters instead of furniture stores.

by dan reed! on Sep 18, 2012 12:25 pm • linkreport

@Will, there is a Patagonia store right around the corner from the GT mall

And also a North Face just a few blocks closer to the Key Bridge.

My view is that they should have lobbied for a Target there instead. With the huge student population in Gtown and GWU am really shocked that wasn't considered? Or maybe it was and was rejected? A huge super multilevel Target would have been very welcomed in that space. Currently, the one in CoHe is operating at full capacity and is the only DC one around.

I agree with those who think Michael's is a bad move. Who crafts anymore? I remember there used to be an Ultrecht store on M street, are they trying to get that same clientele?

Another welcome store would have been a Best Buy...again, not many to be had inside the DC perimeter and wildly popular for discount electronics.

by LuvDusty on Sep 18, 2012 12:27 pm • linkreport

Oh and in terms of "charm", I think a lot was lost once that huge Barnes and Noble closed down a few months ago. The big Nike store they are planning, is overkill on a street where you already have tons of sports apparel stores (Athleta, North Face, Lululemon, etc..etc..)

by LuvDusty on Sep 18, 2012 12:28 pm • linkreport

@Goldfish; hmm. Whole Foods on Wisconsin?

@Rlayman; thanks for the additional history of the site. It would be intersting to come up with a matrix of the various developers, and grade them according to "urban" priorities. Then set up a systems of rewards/incentives to get them to behave better. Interference with private property rights -- probably.

In terms of the retail mix, while I think TJ Maxx is trying to expand and move upscale, there is a tremendous difference in their interior fixings. The Michaels is just inexplicable.

by charlie on Sep 18, 2012 12:53 pm • linkreport

Bottom line:
- Vornado bough the property.
- The two schmucks before Vornado bough it did nothing but fight each other in court and turn the space into a rat-infested rubble.
- They are turning an otherwise dead space into an active shopping destination.
- They are not bringing in brothels, but national stores.
- People need to get on with their lives and quit whining.

by JA on Sep 18, 2012 1:42 pm • linkreport

@LuvDusty - Best Buy is dying along with its business model. It's just a showroom with way too much air to cool and heat. And a Georgetown store would be too close to its other stores in Tenley and Columbia Heights.

by Frank IBC on Sep 18, 2012 4:09 pm • linkreport

dan! nice entry on thecamp etc., although I can't imagine Suzanne's parents will want to go... the same retail group has developed some concepts for "Downtown" Anaheim--it's not a downtown like we think of, but where the city hall and some public buildings are, the ice rink for the Ducks, a parking structure with restrooms, etc., although they have a great fleamarket on the last Sunday of the month.

charlie -- interesting point about ranking developers. If we did, at least then there would be some suasion opportunity for getting the laggards to improve. E.g., Federal Realty wouldn't have been interested because the site isn't really mixed use, but they would have been much better on the retail (e.g., Bethesda Row).

I have been remiss on blogging about a new apartment project on Rte. 1 in Fairfax done by Wood Partners and it is interesting for the same reason, the developer is doing a high quality project, even though nothing else on the corridor is developed similarly, but since it is 1.5 miles from the Huntington Metro, they are positioning it that way.

So like Abdo doing the Childrens Museum redev on H St. and setting the bar for higher quality, or Donatelli on U St./14th St., having developers that want to do work that has staying power is key to successful revitalization.

And as I have blogged on Georgetown, just because it's more successful than most places in DC proper, it still needs to plan, have a plan, and has to remain competitive with other destinations in the regional retail landscape.

But yes, because it's a key tourist destination, that makes it harder to incentivize quality, because some of the property owners (not Lanier) realize that most of the visitors only come once so they don't have to worry about attracting repeat business.

by Richard Layman on Sep 18, 2012 4:21 pm • linkreport

I'm ridiculously excited about Michaels. It would certainly get me to trek out to Georgetown.

by Kate W. on Sep 19, 2012 1:03 pm • linkreport

Nice piece. Gtown is the sales tax revenue bread basket of the city - generates more sales tax revenue than anywhere else.

My household frequently shops in Gtown. We also go there for food sometimes. We take the bus or ride our bikes there. I'm fine with these stores filling up the failing mall.

by ccort on Sep 20, 2012 5:00 pm • linkreport

I love reading comments about G'town. Lots of people love to bad mouth the neighborhood, but really to me it seems to be thriving, bustling, just full of life AT LEAST compared to most other neigborhoods. Anyway - I personally had no problem with the idea of a Target coming to G'town park. Why not? I have 4 kids in middle and high school and live 4 blocks to Gtown park.. we need some randon thing like black tights, or a white turtle neck or a 3 fold poster board all the time.. and always needed by "tomorrow". Beyond that, what is wrong with having paper towels that do not cost 8.49 for 2 rolls (today at Safeway). 2 rolls. Michaels? Art supplies? Awesome. Exact same fancy paint brands available as any store.. so fine with me if it is a chain. NOt sure where else to get stuff short of trucking to Sullivans at Tenley.. no parking and no bargains there or 7 corners! Id love some live music, live comedy, more food, whatever, but now Gtwon park is such a dead zone that anyone who wants to lease there should be welcome. I go to the gym there about 5 days a week - if they had a 7-11 for milk and cream and what not I could cut a few car laden grocery runs from my routine. Have been in Gtown off and ond since the 70's.... sure it is not perfect... I have live in North Beach in SF, and Tribeca.... it is not creme de la creme, but what the heck.. it is at least alive.

by DF on Sep 28, 2012 7:43 pm • linkreport

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