D.C. in Talks to Bring Nordstrom to Georgetown; Mall Deal Could Open Other Shops

Originally posted in Washington Post on Friday, May 25, 2007
Written by Nikita Stewart

Nordstrom and a prominent local developer are negotiating to bring the high-end department store chain to a shopping mall in Georgetown, and the District could contribute at least $20 million to the deal, D.C. officials said yesterday.

The new store would be part of a major remodeling planned for the Shops at Georgetown Park, at M Street and Wisconsin Avenue NW, the officials said. The mall houses an H&M clothing store, Victoria’s Secret, the upscale Dean & Deluca, a number of other stores and a branch of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large) said they discussed the plan at a meeting this week with representatives of Seattle-based Nordstrom and Western Development Corp., which took control of the mall in March. It would be the first Nordstrom in the District, though the chain has six stores in the capital region.

The meeting took place in Las Vegas during the convention of the International Council of Shopping Centers, an annual conference that attracts city officials and developers. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D), Evans, Brown and other council members attended.

Evans, discussing the deal, said Georgetown Park has struggled recently and could benefit from Nordstrom’s entry. “It needs an anchor,” he said.

Western Development is reported to be planning major changes to upgrade the mall, which was built in the 1980s. A Western spokesman confirmed the negotiations but said Herbert S. Miller, a company official, could not be reached for further comment.

Michael Boyd, a spokesman for Nordstrom, said the chain does not discuss negotiations until a letter of intent has been signed. But generally speaking, “when we are looking at a location, we’re looking for strong competition,” he said. “We look for a location . . . that already has entertainment and restaurants that draw customers.”

The description fits Georgetown, a major tourist attraction in the District known for its restaurants and nightlife.

The possible redevelopment of Georgetown Park could also include new shops, as well as new restaurants along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal on the southern boundary of the mall, Evans said.

Brown said discussions about the project had focused on a design that would be in character with Georgetown, a community of brick sidewalks, townhouses and mansions.

Meanwhile, D.C. officials discussed financial support to help the project. “We’re looking at different kinds of subsidy,” Evans said.

Officials compared the case with the construction of Gallery Place — the successful Chinatown development of condominiums, restaurants, a movie theater and bowling alley — built with the help of $73.6 million in bonds sold through the tax increment financing (TIF) program.

D.C. officials discussed a possible TIF for the Georgetown project as one of a number of other developments around the city, including Fort Totten and Shaw.

The program allows the D.C. government to sell bonds, which are later repaid by the development’s taxes. A potential problem with the new development involves an ongoing conflict with Western Development. Miller sued the District last year for $40 million after D.C. officials abandoned his plan to develop a mix of condominiums and shops above parking garages at the new baseball stadium for the Washington Nationals along the Anacostia River.

Nordstrom opened its first store in the Washington region at Tysons Corner in 1988 and most recently opened a store at Dulles Town Center in 2002, Boyd said. Other local stores are in Pentagon City, Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Annapolis and Columbia.

The chain, which has 155 stores in 27 states, reported $8.6 billion in sales in the 2006 fiscal year, and profit of $1.1 billion.

“We generally locate in suburban areas, but were are in some downtowns,” Boyd said, including Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, Ore.