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(Published January 24, 2000)


Staff Writer

Kmart Corp. is negotiating to acquire the city’s vehicle impoundment lot on Brentwood Road NE to build the chain’s first department store in the District.

The Big Kmart store contemplated for the site, next to the city’s main post office, would likely employ 200-300 workers, according to Cyril Crocker, the project manager in the D.C. Office for Planning and Economic Development. Crocker said corporate officials have pledged "to do what they can to hire from the community."

Officials from the retail giant’s Troy, Mich., headquarters are expected to meet with city officials and neighborhood leaders – including Councilman Vincent Orange Sr., D-Ward 5, and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5B members – sometime this week to discuss their plans.

City officials said they are expecting Kmart officials to make a decision by early spring about the site, located just north of the New York Avenue corridor. No other D.C. locations are known to be under consideration for the store.

Kmart officials could not be reached for comment.

Kmart operates more than a dozen stores in suburban Washington but none within the city limits. An Ames department store located about a mile from the proposed Kmart site, at the Rhode Island Avenue Shopping Center, is the only major discount chain store currently operating in the District.

Councilman Orange, whose ward includes the Brentwood neighborhood, described the progress of Kmart’s talks as having "the most promise at this point" for the city to land a major retailer. He noted that locating the discount chain’s store on the current Brentwood Impoundment Lot "wouldn’t really displace anyone except DPW," while providing much-needed jobs and retail goods.

"Possibly some other businesses could be coming to that area as well," Orange said. "It’s my understanding that various parcels are available, other businesses have been inquiring … I know Home Depot is really looking around."

Negotiations with Kmart for the site reportedly are focused on the price of the city-owned land. City officials also need to determine where to relocate the Department of Public Works’ impoundment operations.

Councilwoman Charlene Jarvis, who chairs the council’s economic development committee, said Kmart’s interest in the District resulted from city officials attending an international shopping center conference last year in Las Vegas.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who led the city delegation to that conference, said he is "pleased that Kmart has accepted our invitation to take advantage of the retail opportunities in the city. Its leadership in opening up these dynamic new markets encourages other major retailers to locate their businesses in our city," the mayor said.

Kmart operates more than 2,100 retail stores with locations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its Big Kmart stores – the core of its operations – focus on selling frequently purchased name-brand items and on children’s and home fashions, according to the company’s Internet site. The company’s mission statement says it is focused on being "the discount store of choice for middle-income families with children."

Copyright 2000, The Common Denominator