Demolition is scheduled to begin next month on a strip of shuttered shops at 14th Street and Park Road NW, clearing the way for construction of a large urban shopping center -- anchored by a Target store -- that has been on the drawing board for Columbia Heights since 1999.
Housewares retailer Bed Bath and Beyond also has committed to open in the 500,000-square-foot retail complex, along with a Washington Sports Club gym that is to include an indoor pool and basketball court. Discussions are underway with several other national retailers, officials involved in the project said, and they expect several leases to be signed in the fall.
The complex, which will include 15,000 square feet of space set aside at lower rents for small local retailers, is projected to open its first stores in spring 2008. The District does not have a Target or any similar big box store.
Residents and community leaders have been frustrated by the glacial pace of the $140 million project, which will rise mostly on land left vacant since the 1968 riots. The site is on the west side of 14th Street, between Irving Street and Park Road NW.
Officials with the National Capital Revitalization Corp., the publicly chartered redevelopment organization that is shepherding the effort and whose subsidiary owns the land, said they needed time to work out complex financing and ownership issues.
Target eventually will buy its store from the development team, led by New York-based Grid Properties, which will retain ownership of the rest of the retail space. The revitalization corporation will own the 1,000-space underground parking garage.
"Recrafting the deal along those lines has taken some time," Anthony Freeman, the corporation's chief executive, said last week. "As we speak right now, we are all marching down the same path."
The group expects to finalize its sale of the land in October after amending a 2003 land disposition agreement to reflect the tripartite ownership structure. Grid Properties must sign leases for most of the retail space, not including the Target, before closing on its construction loan. It will face penalties if construction does not begin within 90 days of the land purchase.
The revitalization corporation and Grid Properties are working with Citibank to provide most of the financing for the project.
Before erecting the construction fence and applying for demolition permits, the corporation had to negotiate relocation packages with the two businesses operating in the strip of shops, the Waffle Shop restaurant and a coin-operated laundry.
The corporation is providing more than $200,000 to cover the cost of moving and storing equipment and renovating new space, if necessary, officials said.
The group's development manager, Jen Budoff, said last week that the Waffle Shop is negotiating a purchase in the same neighborhood, and the laundry owners are weighing whether to stay in Columbia Heights or move.