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Retailers eye NE

(Published June 2, 2003)


Staff Writer

Northeast Washington appears to be becoming increasingly attractive to large retailers, with National Wholesale Liquidators planning to open a second store this summer and Kmart Corp. maintaining it still wants to build its first D.C. store in the quadrant.

National Wholesale Liquidators expects to open by the end of August in the 106,000-square-foot former Ames Department Store that anchors the Rhode Island Avenue Shopping Center at Rhode Island and Fourth Street NE. The store has been vacant since last October, when the Ames chain went bankrupt.

Ames had been the District’s only national discount department store until the New York-based National Wholesale Liquidators opened its first D.C. store in April 2002 in the former Hechinger’s hardware store that anchors Hechinger Mall at Benning Road and Maryland Avenue NE.

During that store’s opening week, company officials said they had underestimated demand for the store’s merchandise. The Hechinger Mall store took over the status as the District’s only national discount department store when Ames closed.

Meanwhile, Kmart Corp.’s plan to build its first D.C. store adjacent to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro Station appears to have survived the company’s bankruptcy problems. The company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early May and still plans to build on the former D.C. impoundment lot site, according to a company spokesman.

"That’s one we’re holding onto," Kmart Corp. spokesman Steve Pagnani told The Common Denominator on May 30. However, Pagnani said it is unlikely the D.C. store would be built before the end of 2003.

Chris Bender, a spokesman for Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Eric Price, said the city has seen "positive" signs throughout Kmart’s financial problems that the chain remains committed to bringing a Super Kmart store to the District.

"They’ve continued to keep the permits active for that site, and they’ve continued to service the pad," Bender said.

Still, city officials are known to be shopping for another retailer just in case Kmart decides to pull out of the Rhode Island Avenue site.

"If Kmart decides not to build there, we’d want to move that site as fast as we can – it’s a valuable commodity," Bender said.

Northeast Washington’s recent success in attracting retailers may, at least in part, be attributed to Ward 5 Councilman Vincent Orange’s attendance at an annual shopping center industry convention in Las Vegas in recent years to promote Ward 5 sites to national retailers. Orange was among the first city officials who approached Home Depot about locating a store in the District. The company subsequently built its first D.C. store, which opened last summer, adjacent to the planned Kmart site in Ward 5. Giant Food also opened its first Northeast Washington store there last fall.

Shoppers Food Warehouse and Costco have expressed interest in locating stores in a new shopping center being planned at Fort Lincoln, adjacent to New York Avenue in Ward 5.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator