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Kmart a ‘done deal’

Home improvement, grocery stores included in $65 million project

(Published September 25, 2000)


Staff Writer

City officials are preparing to announce a $65 million development deal that will bring a Kmart, a supermarket and a home improvement store to the Rhode Island Avenue corridor in Northeast Washington, probably before the start of the 2001 Christmas shopping season.

When completed, the three stores are expected to employ about 625 workers – 250 at a Big Kmart, 250 at the home improvement store and 125 at the supermarket. Construction is slated to begin in April 2001.

Giant Food Inc. and Home Depot are believed to be close to terms for becoming part of the project, which several sources familiar with the details termed a "done deal" as far as Kmart’s involvement.

A spokesman for Kmart Corp. confirmed the company plans to make an announcement this week concerning a D.C. site, but he declined further comment. Spokesmen for Landover-based Giant Food and Atlanta-based Home Depot said their companies have several possible expansion sites under consideration in the District, but they declined comment on specific locations.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams is expected to be joined at a scheduled Sept. 28 announcement by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Texas Republican who chairs the Senate D.C. appropriations subcommittee, and by Ward 5 Councilman Vincent Orange, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5B Chairman George Boyd and ANC 5B-03 Commissioner Regina James, whose single-member district includes the site.

Officials from Kmart Corp.’s headquarters in Troy, Mich., are expected to present their plans to the community at ANC 5B’s next monthly meeting. The public meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 in the community room at Fifth Police District headquarters, 1805 Bladensburg Road NE. Details also are expected to be presented during a daylong Ward 5 economic development summit being planned by Councilman Orange for Oct. 14 at Trinity College.

The Common Denominator first reported Kmart’s interest in the 22-acre site – primarily, the city’s vehicle impoundment lot on Brentwood Road NE – last Jan. 24. A federally owned parcel near the city’s main post office has since been added to that city-owned site to allow vehicular and pedestrian access to the stores’ parking lot through the Rhode Island Avenue station on Metro’s Red Line. Two other driveways are planned off Brentwood Road -- one at W Street NE, an intersection that currently has traffic lights. A source familiar with the project said additional traffic lanes are planned for that intersection.

The federal government is expected to cede its part of the project site to the D.C. government, which is then expected to sell the property for development. A small portion of the site, adjacent to the 1000 block of Bryant Street NE, is currently zoned for residential development and will, therefore, require rezoning before it can be incorporated into the commercial enterprise.

City officials reportedly are still trying to decide on a new location for the impoundment lot, which government sources said they hope to keep in Ward 5.

An official who has seen the development plans said all three stores are envisioned as freestanding buildings, with the home improvement store expected to sit closest to Brentwood Road and the two other buildings to be set back farther from the street. Surface parking, traditional at shopping centers, is included in the plans although sources could not provide a number of spaces that will be available.

Kmart currently operates more than a dozen discount department stores in suburban Washington but none within the city limits. Its Big Kmart stores – the core of the corporation’s operations – focus on selling frequently purchased name-brand items and on children’s and home fashions, according to the company’s own profile.

ANC Commissioner James said the planned retail development’s residential neighbors are "excited" about the much-needed stores coming to the area.

"Everything seems to look good, although there are some traffic issues," James said. She described the attitude of Kmart officials she has met who are involved with the project as "very accommodating" toward the neighboring community. D.C. officials last January said Kmart had pledged to "do what they can to hire from the community."

However, James criticized Mayor Williams’ administration and Councilman Orange for failing to schedule a meeting for her constituents, who she noted will be most affected by construction traffic, dirt and noise when the project gets underway.

"If you want the community involved, involve the community – don’t leave them out," James said, noting that politicians and professionals involved with the project have been the only people present at meetings she has attended about the development.

"Even if it’s a ‘done deal,’ you should meet with people. I just think it’s a matter of respect," she said. "I don’t think people are against it. This is great for economic development, but people need to be included.

"I asked Vincent Orange twice if we were going to have a (neighborhood) meeting about this and he said it wasn’t necessary. The Kmart people were more than willing – they didn’t have a problem with it. Vincent Orange had a problem with it," she said.

ANC 5B-05 Commissioner George A. Jackson, who represents the nearby Ivy City neighborhood, expressed similar concerns about the mayor’s administration not giving Ward 5 residents "a seat at the table" as part of the planning process.

"The community is going to embrace these stores, but if you’re not part of the contracting and procurement, you’ll be working only wage jobs," Jackson said. "You can work a job for a couple years, be working today and be fired tomorrow. I want those contracts opened up for residents."

Jackson said he would like to see Kmart and the other companies contract with local people for services such as security and cleaning that will be needed for their stores.

Copyright © 2001 The Common Denominator