Carol Buckley at the Current reported yesterday that the new owners of the Georgetown Park mall are in negotiations to bring in a Target and a Bloomingdale’s “Soho” store (the department store’s smaller more “hip” version).
The deal doesn’t sound final, but GM trusts Buckley’s source enough to be confident that deals are in fact near. One thing not mentioned in the article, however, is the effect of Anthony Lanier’s on-going litigation against Western Development over ownership of the mall.
In fact, as mentioned in the article, Bloomingdale’s already tried to bring a Soho store to the mall three years ago. That deal was called off because of Lanier’s lawsuit. Obviously enough has changed to the landscape for Bloomingdale’s to take another chance.
The irony in all of this is that back in 2009, Anthony Lanier gave a long talk to CAG about his vision for Georgetown. He said that he wants it to be true that the only reason you have to leave Georgetown is to go to the airport. And to that point he said that if he got ownership of the mall, he would seriously consider bringing in a Target and putting it in the basement. The idea being that having a Target in Georgetown means Georgetowners can avoid many trips to the suburbs, bringing the neighborhood that much closer to his dream. And by hiding it away in the basement, it doesn’t affect the historic feel of the neighborhood.
GM thinks there is a lot of merit to this. As the old complaint goes, there aren’t any hardware stores in Georgetown anymore (well actually, there’s one on 35th, but people ignore that when they’re complaining). And when they complain about hardware stores, it’s really just a stand-in for a complaint that not enough stores in Georgetown sell stuff residents need on a daily basis.
GM does, however, have a few concerns. The first is whether this would hurt small shops in the neighborhood. The second, which was also flagged by Buckley, is whether it would lead to an increase in auto-traffic. The idea being that people buy a lot when they go to Target, so they’re likely to drive there. For what it’s worth, the Target in Columbia Heights greatly overbuilt its parking capacity. The planners expected far more customers would drive than have actually done so. But Columbia Heights has a metro station and more population density, so it might not be a great comparison. (Also, there is no way they could fit a Target the size of the one in Columbia Heights into the Georgetown mall. It would have to be a much smaller store.)
Either way, there is obviously a lot to be determined here, but this could be a huge, huge change for the neighborhood.