Georgetown developer is thinking smaller, reimagining brick and mortars

Brick and mortar retail can thrive. Retailers are just rethinking some of the details. Size is one of them.

In D.C.’s Georgetown, developer EastBanc is redeveloping retail space at the prominent corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Prospect Avenue that was previously home to big box retailer Zara, which closed last year.

“In Georgetown, we just don’t have a lot of spaces that are under 2,000 square feet. So what is great about this project is that it allows us to put six spaces, six stores right next to each other,” Philippe Lanier, principal of EastBanc, told WTOP.

Lanier is quite familiar with Georgetown and its constantly evolving retail needs and trends.

“When I was 12, the coolest store was Commander Salamander, and that was halfway up Wisconsin, and I would love to have them come back. Then a national shift moved in. Now we’re having young brands move in that like the charm of Georgetown and the foot traffic,” Lanier said.

EastBanc has partnered with Acadia Realty Trust to reposition the 30,000-square-foot building, returning it back to its original layout. Four of the small format retail spaces will face Wisconsin Avenue, and two will face Prospect.

EastBanc has just now started marketing the space, and while no tenants have been signed for the small-format stores, it said it has had preliminary talks with some who are interested.

The store sizes will range from 800 to 2,000 square feet. EastBanc is working with McInturff Architects to design the interiors.

Tenants might include what EastBanc calls retail disruptors: companies that have an online presence and are looking for the addition of a brick and mortar stores. These kinds of businesses range from established young brands to newer, digitally-native concepts.

The development at 1238 Wisconsin Ave. will also include 15,000 square feet of office space and the addition of five condos or apartments. It is scheduled to deliver in 2021.

“We are excited to add another key location to our Georgetown portfolio. We believe this submarket will continue to capture the tenants that are most relevant in today and tomorrow’s retail landscape,” said Reginald Livingston, co-head of acquisitions at Acadia Realty Trust.

Georgetown will always be Georgetown, making it attractive to retailers. However, it has been feeling the competition for tenants from other submarkets, including the blossoming D.C. waterfronts, the now-established 14th Street and U Street, Mount Vernon Triangle and Union Market.

Georgetown landlords have become more accommodating in recent years to keep their storefronts occupied, with more competitive rents and flexible terms, including short-term leases as short as two years in some cases.

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