- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2001

Lord & Taylor and Wal-Mart top the list of potential tenants for the vacant Woodward & Lothrop building downtown now that Macy's is no longer the front-runner.

"I'm not saying we're not getting a department store or that the deal is totally dead," said developer Douglas Jemal, who owns the Woodies building on 11th and F streets NW. "We were negotiating in good faith with one tenant. But now the exclusive negotiating time [with Macy's] is over."

For well over a year, Mr. Jemal and city officials had been negotiating exclusively with Macy's to occupy the site. The deal fell through after the city and Federated Department Stores Inc., which owns Macy's, could not agree on financial assistance for a second store in Friendship Heights in Northwest.

City officials and Mr. Jemal will begin negotiations with other retailers like Lord & Taylor and Wal-Mart that have shown an interest in the property before.

Mr. Jemal said he is not ruling out Macy's, either.

Eric Price, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, and Macy's officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

A major department store like Macy's in the long-vacant Woodies building would help the city's efforts to bring more retail downtown.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams has pushed since he took office to bring well-known retailers into the city. His administration's efforts have resulted in signed agreements with Home Depot and Kmart as well as interest from other retailers.

The fact that the Woodies building remains vacant is not a sign that retail isn't right for the site nor that the city can't handle a major department store, said Richard Lake, a principal at Madison Retail, a retail real estate firm.

"D.C. is mature enough to attract many retailers," he said. "I believe that building will play a major role in the revitalization of F Street."

Mr. Lake is not in favor of a discount retailer downtown but suggests the retail space be rearranged for several tenants from entertainment-oriented to specialty retailers.

"They need to create interesting space … with midsize users," he said. "There may or may not be a department store there, but it's going to be something spectacular."

The 513,000-square-foot historic building has been vacant since Woodies folded in 1995. It was zoned only for retail, arts or entertainment until Mr. Jemal won zoning approval in February to put offices above the retail space.

While there is no housing on the Woodies site, Mr. Jemal has agreed to build housing on two other sites in Northwest.

Mr. Jemal's plan for the Woodies building called for retail in the basement and first two floors. The six floors above the retailer, as well as the partially developed ninth and 10th floors, will be turned into offices.

Despite the delays, Mr. Jemal says he has no regrets buying the building from the Washington Opera in February 1999 for $28.2 million.

"We certainly see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "Big things take time."


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