Rebuilding on M Street

Originally posted in The Georgetown Current on Wendesday, June 13, 2007

The owners of the Shops at Georgetown Park are preparing a dramatic remake to their property. Western Development Corp, which constructed the M Street center, repurchased the property in March.

Retail trends have changed dramatically over the past two decades, a fact that is recognized by Ben Miller and other company officials. “it’s like a fortress,” he explained in an interview, it needs to be opened up and connected to the neighborhood.”

The company is working on the plans, but the general concept seems positive for the neighborhood and the city. A design that better conforms to Georgetown’s historic character and provides more streetfront access would make a dramatic improvement. So, too, would opening up the center to the C&O Canal, as described by officials consulted as part of the planning process.

Particularly exciting is the prospect of high-end retailer Nordstrom establishing is D.C. location in Georgetown, which would create an anchor for the Shops at Georgetown Park.

Indeed, we support the idea of city aid for the renovations through incentives such as tax increment financing. as long as Western Development lands a high-end department store such as Nordstrom. Tax increment financing would allow the government to use part of the development’s future property and sales taxes – revenue the city would otherwise not receive – to repay bonds to finance the project. The city desperately needs to improve its tax base – and to keep District residents from fleeing to the suburbs to shop. This would clearly do so, and it might even attract suburban Nordstrom fans more interested in strolling through historic Georgetown than the expansive Tysons Corner.