Washington home-improvement store magnate John Hechinger plans to build the District's second largest shopping mall, including about 60 stores, a health spa and movie theaters, across the street from his highly successful first mall in Northeast Washington.
The plans for the $70 million mall came to light when Hechinger applied to close a street in Northeast in preparation for construction of the three-story enclosed mall, which he said would begin next spring.
The street closing, which Hechinger said was essential for building the mall, must be approved by the National Capital Planning Commission and the City Council. The project reportedly has support among city officials.
The new mall will be twice the size of the first mall, which cost $13 million when it was built five years ago. That 30-store mall was built at the eastern end of the H Street riot corridor. The new mall will be second only to Mazza Gallerie in square footage.
The new mall will contain "major department stores . . . and large specialty class stores like Bradlees and K mart," Hechinger said. These stores currently have outlets only in the suburbs. The mall plans also call for building a three-tier, 1,000-space parking deck with entrances onto each mall level.
"We want to make the concept of [the new] Hechinger Mall a one-stop shopping center to attract people in from the suburbs," Hechinger said. "One of the great things that we hope to achieve is to stop the outflow of shoppers and revenues from the District to the suburbs."
The financing for the project is still uncertain, according to Hechinger and city officials. Hechinger said he had talked to banks and federal and local officials but has received no commitment for financing the project.
"We'd like to get UDAG [Urban Development Action Grant] money, but I think it's going to be very difficult," he said.
"We're taking a look at federal [urban renewal assistance] programs that might have been weakened by Graham-Rudman," the federal deficit-reduction law. " . . . We're also exploring city bonds."
Kwasi Holman, head of the city's Office of Business and Economic Development, said, "We anticipate that an appropriate financing mechanism, even with the potential loss of the Urban Developent Action Grant program, could be possible."
The first Hechinger Mall was partly financed by a $3.2 million UDAG -- the first such grant ever received by the city.
The city is "continuing to explore financial alternatives with the Hechinger Co." to pay for the mall, Holman said. The city's financing recommendations would be presented to the mayor and City Council by early spring, he said.
"This type of development will be a positive addition to the revitalization of the H Street corridor," Holman said. " . . . We must seek appropriate government financing for this type of development."
The new mall would be a major new development in Northeast Washington and the H Street corridor, which is still largely eschewed by the city's best-known developers and businessmen despite longtime city plans to redevelop the once-thriving shopping area.
Hechinger Mall II is planned for a triangular site bounded by Maryland Avenue, Bladensburg Road and K Street NE. Neal Street, which cuts through the site, has been slated for closing.
The site was formerly occupied by a Sears store that closed a few years ago and a Hechinger's home improvement store. Hechinger purchased the site soon after the Sears closed.
The two malls are in a community split between the increasingly gentrified Capitol Hill residents to the west, and black middle-class homeowners and renters to the south and east.
Hechinger Mall II "will offer those things that are missing from Hechinger Mall one," said Hechinger, "including a fine sit-down restaurant, [movie] theaters, a health club, and greater emphasis on higher quality accessories and clothing.
" . . . There will be offices for doctors, lawyers and insurance agents, and we're planning a community room of about 5,000 square feet that would seat 300 people," he added.
"Through very extensive market studies on consumer integration, we are examining what we consider to be one of the most underserved markets in the United States," Hechinger said. " . . . I'm referring to the Northeast corridor, what represents approximately a quarter of a million people that would be the market for Hechinger Mall II."
Hechinger said the new mall would have a "variety of multiethnic eateries, like those at the Pavilion [Old Post Office] building, that will face a courtyard . . . . We hope to have the mall pedestrian traffic move among sculpture and a kiosk similar to what you see at the Inner Harbor in Baltimore."
The street closing request is scheduled to be discussed by the 12-member planning commission on March 6.