Target is considering opening a store in downtown Washington, at 11th and E streets NW, in space once occupied mainly by ESPN Zone.
It would be Target’s second store in the District, after its 2008 opening in Columbia Heights, and would continue the chain’s expansion into big cities, sometimes by using unique or smaller store designs, some of them offering WiFi and mini-Apple showrooms.
There is a hang-up, however, and it doesn’t just have to do with how to fit the big-box retailer into a downtown office building.
The building, 555 12th St. NW, is for sale. A new owner has not been named, and it is not clear whether whoever buys the building would want the rather ubiquitous red Target symbol stamped on the bottom of it.
Michael R. Zacharia, a retail broker for commercial real estate firm CBRE who represents the building’s current owners, acknowledged that he has been working for months on a deal to bring Target there. Multiple prospective buyers said the building was being marketed for sale as having a Target store lined up as a possible tenant.
But Zacharia said that with the building likely to change hands soon, it is difficult to tell what will happen with the property. No sale has been announced by its current owner, Manulife Financial.
“We’ve really stopped discussions with everyone, pending new ownership,” Zacharia said. “We’re kind of in a holding pattern.”
Target issued a statement saying it “currently does not have any information to share regarding a potential new store” and does not discuss potential new store openings more than a year in advance.
Last year, Target began rolling out a new format, called CityTarget, with stores of from 80,000 to 100,000 square feet, about two-thirds the size of its typical stores, with smaller back rooms, edgier signage and even shorter delivery trucks.
More of the chain’s stores, including regular Targets, are on two levels, including the store in Columbia Heights, which features a Target cart escalator. There are CityTarget stores in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland.
Many of the typical Target items are shrunken at CityTarget stores; they offer fewer 12-packs of toilet paper, for instance, and more four-packs. Shoppers probably can’t buy a power mower there.
Zacharia declined to discuss the specifics of his discussions with Target but explained how he could fit a big box store of as many of 100,000 square feet into the building, which is across the street from an entrance to the Metro Center station. The ESPN Zone, which closed in 2010, is about 40,000 square feet, including two underground levels. More space could be found from other vacancies or expected vacancies, and there is some question about whether Barnes & Noble, whose lease expires next year, will continue to take as much space should the bookstore extend its lease.
Target has backed away from some other opportunities in the District, including in Georgetown and the Costco-anchored shopping center on New York Avenue in Northeast. It’s hard to say what the chain’s specific reaction would be if the District’s proposed “living wage” bill, which would require some big box chains to pay $12.50 an hour instead of the District’s minimum wage of $8.25, becomes law.
But there has recently been a flood of big box types into vacancies downtown, which would give Target some familiar surroundings. T.J. Maxx opened last year in Penn Quarter, Nordstrom Rack opened on L Street in April, and Marshalls is opening a store in the National Press Building in the former Filene’s Basement space.
A concern for whoever buys the 12th Street building might be that Target’s presence would cheapen the building’s look in some way. Would a law firm looking for new space consider a location people think of as “the Target building”?
Zacharia said that’s an old way of thinking. “Retailers from around the country and other big box retailers are going into trophy office buildings without any impact. It’s not anything that’s out of the norm, with office tenants becoming comfortable with this,” he said.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz