Mall executives at Prince George's Plaza in Hyattsville said a year-long, $20 million project to renovate the mall and add a Target store will be completed by the end of September. A grand opening is tentatively set for Oct. 10.

The $14 million, 136,000-square-foot Target will give the 45-year-old mall a third anchor once again, joining Hecht's and J.C. Penney as primary attractions. Longtime occupant G.C. Murphy pulled out in 1999, and its store was demolished. Construction began last August.

Mall officials said the 20-year lease to Target, the Minneapolis-based discount retailer, could generate $300,000 in annual rent.

An additional 74,000 square feet of space beneath the new Target will be available for leasing to two other stores, according to the mall owner, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust of Philadelphia.

Located inside the Beltway at East West Highway and Belcrest Road, Prince George's Plaza reflects efforts to revitalize the City of Hyattsville, which is fighting to regain the distinction it had as a hub of economic activity until the 1950s.

"It represents a great deal of retail confidence in the area," said Mark Ferguson, chairman of the Hyattsville Community Development Corp. "It's nice to see that economic activity come back to Hyattsville, because for most of the [last] 50 years, it was leaving."

Prince George's Plaza was built in 1959 as an open-air strip mall, hailed at the time as a large regional shopping center. In the 1970s, it followed the trend and put on a roof. A 600-seat food court was created in 1990, and Metro added a Green Line stop and walkway overpass to the plaza in the mid-1990s.

Yet the center struggled to attract and hold customers as many shoppers ventured to nearby malls.

"One of the things we found from Prince George's Plaza was that customers were leaving the market to shop in other areas," said Joseph Coradino, vice president of the retail division at the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust.

On a recent afternoon, Maricel Villa of Hyattsville, 25, visited Prince George's Plaza with her sister May and 2-year-old daughter, Ashley, for only the second time since she arrived in 1999 from the Philippines.

"It was a little small," Villa recalled of her first visit two years earlier. "There wasn't a lot of stores."

She said that's why she often drives 30 minutes to an hour to shop at other malls, such as Arundel Mills, Wheaton Plaza, Montgomery Mall and White Flint.

And mall executives said that's why they set out to lure Target: to keep up with the area's recent retail boom. The opening of the Boulevard at the Capital Centre in Largo last year and the $95 million renovation at Wheaton Plaza, now called Westfield Shoppingtown Wheaton, which includes the addition of Macy's, made it imperative to acquire a new anchor.

The mall owners presented Target with eye-opening statistics from the U.S. Census: Within five miles of the shopping center, there are 188,000 households, with an average household income of more than $60,000 a year. Within 10 miles are 1.5 million people, or 634,000 households, with an average household income of $82,000.

Mall officials said they're hoping the marriage of traditional retail stores with a "big-box" merchant like Target will act as a magnet.

"Target is a very contemporary retailer which offers a broad range of merchandise, and as such attracts a diversified customer, from an economic standpoint," said mall manager Henry Watford.

The remaining $6 million spent on redevelopment produced amenities such as new decorative tile flooring, exterior lighting, cushioned seats in place of wooden benches, a redesigned food court, a family restroom and elevators.

"Prince George's Plaza was very dated," Coradino said. "Its appearance was sub-par, so we wanted to make changes so we could present a quality asset to our customers."

He said the mall was bringing in only $266 in sales per square foot when his company bought it in 1998.

That has since grown more than 40 percent, to $374 per square foot in 2003, Coradino said, buoyed by the openings in recent years of Old Navy, the Gap, Gap Kids, the Children's Place and Bath & Body Works.

"The more that we were able to bring the popular retailers into the mall environment, the better off the mall was doing," Coradino said.

Last year, 9.7 million people visited the mall, Coradino said. That could balloon, as the owner has signed leasing deals with Olive Garden, Office Depot, men's apparel retailer Jimmy Jazz and Bourbon Street Grill, with openings for the new businesses set for late 2005.

Darrell Booth, from Charlotte, above, helps prepare the new Target store in Prince George's Plaza for its scheduled September opening. Roger Linares, below, cuts aluminum frames for the Hyattsville store's main entrance.