Ground was broken yesterday for the new Hechinger Mall, a $13.3 million shopping facility that ultimately will offer Northeast shoppers 40 stores.
Company President John W. Hechinger Sr. promised that the mall will help fill the needs of the vicinity's 300,000 shoppers when it opens next year.
Hechinger said in prepared remarks that the project, located at the intersection of Benning and Bladensburg Roads and Maryland Avenue NE, will "stimulate the whole rehabilitation of the H Street corridor."
Hechinger's remarks, scheduled to be delivered at a groundbreaking ceremony at the site, emphasized that the project is the outgrowth of a joint effort by the District and federal governments and Hechinger Enterprises, the developer of the mall. The District government, using a grant obtained from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, provided a $3.2 million loan for the project.
John W. Hechinger Jr., the company's director of real estate and development, said the development unit "could not have gone forward without the loan."
Although the company is required to repay the loan within 35 years, the younger Hechinger said the company would pay back the interest-free loan "much sooner" than that. He also noted that the money is particularly important to the city, because District officials will use it in future H street revitalization programs.
The mall's initial tenants will include a 60,000-square-foot Hechinger store, Peoples Drug store and Safeway supermarket. Parking for more than 700 cars will be available. The site is also served by frequent Metro bus service.
The Safeway store will be the chain's largest on the East Coast, a 60,000-square-foot facility that will include a variety of specialized services including a pharmacy, an automotive section and a gourmet center. But as a result of the new store's construction, another Safeway located nearby at 801 17th St. NE will close when the new store is completed.
The site is about a mile from the Capitol in a region of the city in which economic growth has been hampered by the lack of shopping facilities. The Hechinger project, in fact, is considered the largest private commercial development east of the Capitol in the city's history.
"Right now, the near Northeast is the most under-served area in town -- over 300,000 people serviced by two small supermarkets, one drug store and very few other reatil stores," the elder Hechinger said.
Hechinger pointed out that the loan funds came directly from the federal government's coffers and that the partnership involving the city requires that half the project's profits be turned over to the city until the loan is paid off.
"The mall will generate a huge return for the city in terms of real estate, business income and payroll taxes, and important construction and retail jobs," Hechinger said. "But, of course, of most importance, it will create a focus -- a community shopping center in this area that will assuredly cause the rest of the H Street commercial area to blossom again."
Mayor Marion S. Barry, City Council Chairman Arrington Dixon and D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy also were scheduled to attend the ceremony.