Two weeks ago, the owners of La Musa rug shop and garment boutique Alpaca International said they received notice from lawyers for Clarion Partners, the property owner, to vacate their stores within seven days ahead of planned construction. Both retailers were due to renew their leases, but say they were not offered extensions or the option to relocate to another part of the mall.
“I was just stunned,” said Ann Marie Baldine, who has run La Musa for 16 years at the shopping center. She said tenants were informed of the construction in November by property manager Akridge, but never told they would have to leave. “I’ve never been late with my rent. I’m not a store that makes a lot of money, but my business is steady.”
Calls to officials at Akridge for comment were not returned. Chevy Chase Pavilion’s retail leasing agent Bill Dickinson of Rappaport Cos. confirmed that there is a “considerable amount of work being done in preparation for a major tenant, but there is nothing to announce until a lease is signed.”
Suzanne Franks of Clarion Partners, which owns the pavilion, said renovations are planned but would not comment on the timing.
“The end result will enhance the property significantly,” she said. “We are not yet in a position to make a lot of definitive statements about the future of the tenancy and the property, but we will be in a couple of weeks.”
While the construction is under way, officials at Embassy Suites Hotel said the property, which can be accessed from the mall, will temporarily shut down in March and April. Officials at World Market, on the lower level of the complex, said the store will remain open during the renovations. Cheesecake Factory, Washington Sports Club and J Crew also said they plan to remain open.
Chevy Chase Pavilion, located on the corner of Western and Wisconsin avenues, has lost Stein Mart and Pottery Barn as tenants in the past 11 months. The closing of Pottery Barn last month left two floors of street-front retail space vacant along Wisconsin Avenue, where Borders and Filene’s Basement also shuttered stores in recent months.
Baldine doubts she will be able to find another location with such short notice, and fears this might mean the end of her retail operations. Magda Adra, manager of Alpaca, said the company is hoping to find a space in Bethesda, but still has a location in Annapolis to fall back on.