In a move that could drastically alter the shape of redevelopment in Washington's old downtown, the Hecht Company is considering relocating its store several blocks to the west.
Under study is a move to the rapidly developing area near 13th and G streets NW, including a possible site in a $200 million development by Oliver Carr above the Metro Center subway station and across the street from Woodward & Lothrop.
Hecht's is currently located at 7th and F streets, somewhat east of the recent developments, and losing money at the rate of about $1 million a year, according to one source.
What the westward move would do for Hecht's is put the store into an area already attractive to retail customers, nearer to a subway that has brought huge increases in business to Woodies, and closer to the officer and commerical development springing up in the wedge between Pennsylvania Avenue and the office district west of 15th Street.
For downtown it would mean a concentration of retail business nearer to 14th Street rather than in an east-west line from Hecht's to Garfinckel's, and the possibility of a shopper stepping off the subway and being greeted by two major department stores.
The move would also put the city's retial core slightly further from the convention center, at 9th and H streets.
D.C. government officials, planners and other retail store officials said that Hecht's has bought research and analyses of sites in the 13th and G area. "The May Company (Hecht's parent company) was the first to call after Carr picked up Metro Center," said one former Redevelopment Land Agency official.
"We're studying different alternatives regarding our future to downtown Washington," said Allan J. Bloostein, chairman of the Hecht Company. "So far there's been insufficient information and facts available to facilitate an intelligent conclusion," he said.
Bloostein would not comment on whether the company has been losing money in the downtown store of whether it has been involved in discussions with the Carr Company over locating in the Metro Center site. Betts Able, project director for the site for Carr, said she was not aware of discussions. Bloostein did say that Hecht's has researched locations in downtown Washington as part of "a complete reanalysis of the whole Washington-Baltimore area that includes both downtowns."
"We think there's a great opportunity for Hecht's downtown," Bloostein said.
Carr's plans for his project include an estimated 800,000 square feet of office space and about 500,000 square feet each of retail and hotel or housing space. An area 500,000 square feet would be more than enough for a large department store.
Bill McDonald, vice president for marketing for Woodward & Lothrop, said he was aware that Hecht's was studying relocation closer to Meter Center.
"Our attitude is that added retail will only help and enhance our business," he said. "This will have to be the revamp area of downtown."
Sources said that several factors indicated Hecht's was planning to move. These sources noted that Hecht's was doing little to renovate its downtown store and that there is not direct Metro access in the present location.
Another factor is that there is little development underway in the area immediately around Hecht's. In the long run, much development may be residential, rather than retail. Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corporation's plans for the area include a manjor residential project covering four blocks.
Because money is hard to come by and expensive now, sources active in devlopment said Hecht's might not move rapidly on relocation.
Two other department store companies -- Bloomingdale's and J.C. Penney -- are rumored to be looking at sites in the old downtown.
"This is THE sector to look at for the next 10 years," said McDonald.