Wal-Mart to begin building Georgia Avenue store in September


Wal-Mart’s store at 77 H St. NW has progressed as permits have been approved. ( Courtesy of OxBlue )

Wal-Mart plans to begin building a store on Georgia Avenue NW next month, and with construction already under way on its store off North Capitol Street, the retailer could open its first two District stores by the end of next year.

Since announcing in late 2010 that it planned to open four stores in the District, the chain has had to temper its expectations. The original time line of opening four by the end of 2012 quickly proved unrealistic, and Wal-Mart acknowledged delays in the spring.

Although the retailer has faced some opposition from community leaders and residents upset about its management practices, Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo attributed the delays to the complexity of the mixed-use projects where its stores will locate. Unlike the chain’s sites in many rural areas, all but the Georgia Avenue project in D.C. are part of mixed-use developments, and none are owned by Wal-Mart.

The store already under way, at 77 H Street NW, is a part of a development by JBG Rosenfeld that will feature 303 apartments above a 76,000-square-foot urban format Wal-Mart alongside other smaller stores. Work should be complete by the end of 2013 or early 2014, according to Restivo.

Other projects are moving more slowly. A store pegged for East Capitol Street and being built in conjunction with the D.C. Housing Authority will need zoning changes via the city’s Planned Unit Development process, which allows developers to seek greater density. Restivo said Wal-Mart expects that process to begin in the fall.

The developer of Wal-Mart’s site on New York Avenue NE, Rick Walker, has been juggling interest from other big-box retailers for a larger shopping center that he calls the Point at Arboretum, but has not announced any other tenants to this point. Walker also took issue recently with proposals to build two new nightclubs near the corner of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road NE, adjacent to his site. Walker wrote to the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in the spring opposing the clubs’ liquor license applications. “The use is of some concern to us,” Walker said. “We’re supporting the community in their opposition to the proposals.”

Walker did not, however, think there was any reason to believe Wal-Mart would back out of the deal. “We’ve had no discussions with Wal-Mart and have no reason to think that Wal-Mart is concerned,” he said.

Restivo said the chain remained committed to its six D.C. sites and was using the additional time created by delays to hold more meetings with residents. “The bottom line is that we’re striking a balance between an unprecedented level of community engagement and an efficient and realistic construction schedule. We look forward to serving D.C. customers soon,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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