With Sears closing in Landover, Lerner Enterprises pursues FBI headquarters

Sears is shuttering its store near the former Landover Mall, after selling the site to a Rockville-based development firm that is seeking to build a new FBI headquarters.

Sears will hold a liquidation sale at its store on Brightseat Road beginning Friday and close the store for good in mid-March, a company spokesman said.

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The store operated for more than a decade in a sea of empty parking lots after Landover Mall closed in 2002 and the shopping center was demolished a few years later. Lerner Enterprises said Tuesday that it plans to offer the 88-acre former mall site to the General Services Administration for consideration as a future headquarters for the FBI. Washington Nationals majority owner Theodore N. Lerner is the founder of the company.

“With Sears closed the confusion that existed as to the availability of the entire site should be eliminated,” Alan H. Gottlieb, chief operating officer of Lerner Enterprises, wrote in an e-mail after the Sears announcement. “We would hope to attract a major user or users to the site possibly the FBI. In that regard we have submitted the site to the GSA.”

The Sears closure could also cause more than 100 people to lose their jobs. Currently, 82 people work at the store and an additional 33 work at the Sears Auto Center nearby, most of whom are part-time hourly employees, according to Sears.

Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said that “associates that are eligible will receive severance and have the opportunity to apply for open positions at area Sears or Kmart stores.” Sears still has locations in Bowie and White Oak, among others, in the greater Washington area.

Sears has been struggling for years, battered by discount retailers such as Wal-Mart and online sellers such as Amazon. Dozens of other low-cost retailers opened recently at the Tanger Outlets near National Harbor.

Sears had owned the Landover store until recently, when it sold the property to Lerner, which owns the rest of the mall site. Lerner tried to persuade state and Prince George’s County officials to build a $645 million regional hospital there, going so far as to hire former Montgomery County executive Douglas M. Duncan to lobby for the project.

County officials ultimately favored a site at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) has already backed a site in Greenbelt for the FBI, but David S. Iannucci, a top economic development aide to Baker, said the county is committed to doing what it takes to redevelop the former Landover Mall location, which is just off the Capital Beltway.

“The administration has previously and on multiple times communicated our deep interest in seeing the site redeveloped to its full potential,” Iannucci said in an e-mail.

Capital Business is The Post’s weekly publication focusing on the region’s business community.

 
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