Visitors to the ESPN Zone restaurant in downtown D.C. may remember winding their way down from the entrance at 12th and E
streets, past the restaurant and bar and eventually down to the arcade where air hockey, mini-basketball hoops and sports video games awaited.
But ESPN Zone is no more. It closed in the summer of 2010, after ESPN and its parent, Walt Disney Co., decided to close it and four others in Baltimore, Chicago, New York and Las Vegas. Practically everything in the D.C. restaurant went up for auction last year.
The old D.C. ESPN Zone, however, is still vacant. It’s a large space for downtown D.C. and is being marketed for users of up to 100,000 square feet. But with the retail market still staggering toward a recovery many large retailers are either closing stores or ditching plans to open new ones, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Target among them.
Part of the reason it’s been vacant so long is Disney attempted to take over the space, but couldn’t find a taker. Eventually it agreed to buy out its lease and the space is now controlled by the building’s owner, Manulife Financial, and being marketed by CBRE, which has decided on a strategy.
“We’re going to go one of two ways. We’re certainly talking to folks that are in that entertainment- restaurant type of space,” said Michael R. Zacharia, senior vice president of retail services for CBRE. That could either be one large user or maybe four 25,000-square-foot businesses. But how many restaurants want to be two stories underground?
The alternative, Zacharia, is to try to create an underground mini-fashion mall by going after “fashion or apparel, traditional soft goods type of retailers.” He will likely be competing, however, with the likes of spaces that Filene’s Basement and Borders both vacated downtown.
What about a Dave & Busters, wouldn’t that fit? Not upscale enough.
“Ownership doesn’t really want a Dave & Busters concept in there, they are really looking for something that changes the market a bit,” said Zacharia.
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