Wal-Mart Stores Inc. yesterday said it would scrap plans to build its first District store in Northeast after senior executives at the company visited the proposed site in the Brentwood neighborhood and found it did not meet their requirements.
The decision, which executives made late yesterday at Wal-Mart's Bentonville, Ark., headquarters, stunned city leaders and developers, who had courted the retailer for years and hoped its arrival in Northeast would spark an economic revival in the neighborhood.
Wal-Mart had reached the final stages of negotiations to build a 100,000-square-foot store at the Rhode Island Place shopping center. All that remained was final approval from top company executives, who flew into the District this week to review the site, people familiar with the talks said.
"It floors me. We had almost everyone on board," said one developer involved in the deal, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the negotiations.
Wal-Mart gave no detailed explanation of why it rejected the site, but two people with direct knowledge of the talks said the small size of the site and parking lot in the Rhode Island Place shopping center were two major factors.
Mia T. Masten, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said that "after reviewing the site and evaluating our operational needs, we decided the site does not meet the requirements to best serve our customers." For now, she said, the chain has no alternative location in the District in mind.
Masten said the chain, which has 27 stores in the region but none inside the Capital Beltway, will work with the mayor and the city council to find a new site. "Wal-Mart remains very interested in the Washington, D.C., market," she said.
Executives with the project's two private developers, Graimark/Walker Urban Development LLC and MidCity Urban LLC, did not return phone messages last night.
Chris Bender, a spokesman for the city's office of planning and economic development, said the company's decision is "disappointing."
At-large D.C. Council member Harold Brazil urged developers to find a replacement for Wal-Mart. "There is real demand for discount goods in the city," he said.