Downtown Could Support Big Stores, Study Finds

Hecht's is one of the few large retailers downtown. A study for the Downtown BID says the area could support more retail.
Hecht's is one of the few large retailers downtown. A study for the Downtown BID says the area could support more retail. (By Gerald Herbert -- Associated Press)
By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 28, 2005

The nonprofit group that promotes economic development in the city says that the District could support two major department stores downtown with the money that "leaks" into neighboring Tysons Corner and Pentagon City.

A study done for the Downtown DC Business Improvement District and released yesterday said District residents spend $1.1 billion in one year shopping in neighboring jurisdictions. The city's population and income levels, it said, show it could support department stores such as Nordstrom or Bloomingdale's -- each about 100,000 square feet -- in the downtown core.

"We're not capturing some $1 billion worth of sales potential just from residents who live here in the city," said Richard H. Bradley, executive director of the group that paid for the study. "People are going to Pentagon City, Friendship Heights or elsewhere. We're missing the boat."

The $75,000 study, which was done by Gould & Associates of the District and Chapman Consulting of Alexandria, says the District's housing boom, strong job growth, and new hotels, restaurants and office buildings have created a demand for more retail from residents and the office workers who fill the streets at lunch hour. It also suggests that stores such as DSW, TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Linens 'n Things would draw business at free-standing locations in other parts of the city.

Bradley said one possible location for a department store would be on the roughly 10 acres at the old convention center site at New York Avenue and Ninth Street NW, although some city officials and community activists are pushing hard for a new library headquarters to go there. Others want a hotel built there.

Retail experts, however, said the study and its supporters may be too optimistic.

"What we need downtown is something the suburbs don't have," said Richard S. Lake, president of Roadside Development of the District, which does retail development and consulting, citing Barney's as an example. "The demographics and the population of the city aren't enough to handle large department stores."

The only large retail stores downtown are Hecht's at 12th and G streets NW and the nearby H&M in the former Woodward & Lothrop building.

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