Photo by Mr. T in DC.
The Washington Business Journal reported the other day that Vornado and Angelo Gordon are moving forward with the radical reshaping of the Georgetown Park mall:
The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs awarded mall co-owners Vornado Realty Trust and Angelo Gordon & Co. demolition and interior renovation permits March 9 to break down the large sections of the mall’s mid area, according to public documents.
It’s interesting that the developers are moving ahead with interior changes despite the fact that their requests to change the exterior have proved fruitless, so far. Last year they tried to get approval to build large windows along M St. on the west end of the building. OGB rejected their plans. No further applications have been made since.
Vornado has been notoriously tight-lipped about its plans for the mall. In particular, they have not released the names of what tenants they’re hoping to bring in. But apropos to the internal construction, GM has heard that the approach Vornado is taking is to “de-mall” the mall. In other words, gut out the the interior space and create long shoe-box shape stores that go from M St. back to the canal.
On the one hand, GM thinks essentially replacing the mall with several large stores with streetfront facades is a good thing. Georgetown Park mall was always out of place in Georgetown and it was a futile attempt to try to beat the suburbs at their own game. Large interior-oriented malls don’t belong in a historic commercial neighborhood like Georgetown.
But on the other hand, the only tenants that will be able to afford those giant shoe-box shaped stores are big box stores. While GM would like to see a Target in Georgetown, he doesn’t want to see central Georgetown become dominated by 3 or 4 giant stores.
And from a different angle: yes de-malling the mall may be better than keeping it as is, but there are even better options. First among those are Anthony Lanier’s plan to open up the ceiling and create a European-style shopping arcade. Maybe that was unrealistic, but it was at least imaginative. GM doesn’t think there’s a lot of imagination behind shoehorning in a couple big box stores and calling it a day.