The discount retail chains have signed a combined lease for 47,800 square feet, according to a source familiar with the deal. They will have a storefront entrance on M Street, Georgetown’s main shopping drag, as well as larger space on the lower Wisconsin Avenue level of the building.
The addition of the stores to Georgetown Park, speculation of which was first reported by online blog Georgetown Metropolitan based on a Vornado marketing brochure, is one of several new changes to the aging indoor mall. Also among the changes, J Crew has reached a deal to move from its current 8,000-square-foot shop in the mall to a larger space of about 14,000 square feet, according to the source. Washington Sports Club will keep its space in the mall but will get a new storefront entrance on M Street, and Dean & DeLuca has renewed its lease in the mall.
News of the new retailers has already been met with mixed reviews from Georgetown residents and business owners, many of whom have been advocating for more high-end merchants than either T.J. Maxx or HomeGoods but have also been frustrated with the mall’s decline in recent years. As it prepared for its planned renovations, Vornado and mall co-owner Angelo Gordon & Co. have let dozens of leases expire and all but six now remain. In addition to J Crew and Dean & DeLuca, other remaining tenants include Anthropologie, H&M, Intermix and the Washington Sports Club, according to Vornado’s Georgetown Park online directory.
“Hopefully the stores will work for the mall and community going forward,” said Bill Starrels, vice chairman of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission that oversees Georgetown. “I can see some of the folks in Georgetown wanting a high-end tenant, and hopefully we’ll get some of those.”
The ANC is slated to meet Oct. 1 to discuss exterior renovations to the mall at 3222 M St. but does not have a say over the types of tenants that will lease space there. Representatives from Vornado are slated to appear at the meeting, the latest of several they have appeared at to discuss the mall’s facade and signage.
Georgetown retail broker John Asadoorian, principal of Asadoorian Retail Solutions, said he doubts Vornado, T.J. Maxx or HomeGoods would have committed to the lease unless they were confident that the combined store would attract a strong customer base. Even as so-called discount retailers, the stores will likely bring more feet in the door and could serve as a catalyst for Vornado to bring in other and potentially higher-end retailers.
“Whether it’s T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods, or the [Department of Motor Vehicles], it doesn’t really matter,” Asadoorian said. “I don’t see it as being a negative at the end of the day.” Asadoorian referred to the D.C. motor vehicle department, which had a branch there until recently but could reopen there in the future.
The strategy appears to line up with Vornado’s previously stated efforts to infuse more life into the interior parts of the mall, those spaces that to not have prominent visibility or entrances from M Street. HomeGoods and T.J. Maxx would take up a significant portion of the upper Wisconsin Avenue level of Georgetown Park’s western portion, the side closest Georgetown University’s main campus.
Vornado/Charles E. Smith President Mitchell Schear previously told the Washington Business Journal his firm was coming up with a plan to shift the mall’s internal format from dozens of small shops to a scheme featuring fewer but bigger retailers.
“It’ll end up as a prime, large-format, street-driven retail mall with seven to a dozen stores, as opposed to 60 to 80,” he said in a previous interview with the WBJ.
Nancy Miyahira, spokeswoman for the Georgetown Business Improvement District, said she believes the mass appeal of T.J. Maxx and HomeGoods could help to bring more people into Georgetown and that, in turn, could help the larger business community. Miyahira said she has already heard divergent opinions from residents and business owners on the subject.
“Whatever Vornado is doing, they’ve been working on it for a while, they obviously have put a lot of thought into it and it’s going to be an interesting mix,” she said. “They’re trying to do something different hoping that the new mall will be successful.”