- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2006

A group of eight retailers, including discount clothier A.J. Wright, Radio Shack and Foot Locker, are scheduled to open in the fall on the Brentwood site in the District that nearly became a Kmart five years ago.

Developers and D.C. officials yesterday broke ground on the site, which is immediately east of the Rhode Island Metro station. They had been trying to bring another big-box store to the site with little luck, according to D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr., a Ward 5 Democrat and mayoral candidate.

“We were in discussions with Wal-Mart, but the community was resistant to it,” he said. “We talked to Kohl’s and some others, but [a big-box retailer] didn’t work out.”

Instead, the 55,000-square-foot site has been cut into eight units.

A.J. Wright, a discount clothing retailer whose parent company owns T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, will anchor the site with a 25,000-square foot store. A.J. Wright’s other Washington-area locations are in Oxon Hill and Lanham.

The remaining 30,000 square feet will be filled by Citibank, Radio Shack, America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, Anna’s Linens, Foot Locker, Rainbow (a women’s clothing store), and Downtown Locker Room, a Baltimore retailer that sells urban apparel, footwear and music.

The developer said the retailers will be just as strong as a big-box store would have been.

“It’s a broader mix,” said Rick Walker, president of Walker Developments Inc. of Michigan. “The area lacking there was soft goods … is it going to be as strong as a big box? Absolutely.”

The stores are expected to be open by October.

“A lot of people say development is only taking place downtown. We know that’s not true. Under the mayor’s vision, development is taking place downtown, around town and in the communities,” Mr. Orange said.

In mid-2001, the city announced plans to bring Home Depot, Giant Food and Kmart to the site, which was a vehicle impound lot. When Kmart filed for bankruptcy six months later, it pulled out of the deal, leaving the site empty.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday attributed part of the five-year delay in naming a replacement to finding quality retailers.

“It took a little longer than we would have liked, but we’ve brought it to a good point,” he said.

Mr. Williams said the stores are an opportunity for D.C. residents to spend their money in the District instead of going to shopping centers in Virginia or Maryland.

“Many District residents and business are often forced to buy goods and services — clothing, appliances, building supplies, home furnishings — in other jurisdictions,” he said.

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