- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2006

The National Capital Revitalization Corp. (NCRC) has won ownership of two properties at the Skyland Shopping Center in Southeast through eminent domain.

The NCRC, a public-private company that rebuilds fledgling District buildings, acquired 7 acres of land east of the existing shopping center and the site of a liquor store on the southeast corner of the site, said Ted Risher, senior development manager at NCRC.

The District granted the NCRC ownership of the properties Friday.

NCRC plans to tear down the existing, dilapidated buildings and construct a new 250,000-square foot shopping center on the site. It is expected to bring in 233 new permanent jobs and spur economic growth in the area. It is expected to open in the summer of 2008.

NCRC and Rappaport Co., one of the real estate developers, are planning a neighborhood shopping center with 20 to 30 tenants on 18.5 acres, said Gary Rappaport, president of the McLean company.

NCRC now owns two-thirds of the property on the site, according to NCRC spokeswoman Peggy Armstrong.

Four other ownership requests on the site are pending. If they are approved, NCRC would have control of about 90 percent of the shopping center site, Ms. Armstrong said.

NCRC took the two site approvals as a sign to move forward with the project.

“This is all speculative, but we think that the rulings on Friday have essentially demonstrated our authority to proceed in [building the shopping center],” Mr. Risher said.

If the requests are approved, NCRC still must gain control of three of the properties, Mr. Risher said. Two of the deals are nearing completion.

Some merchants, who are still operating their stores in the shopping center, plan to appeal the decision, according to Elaine Mittleman, a lawyer who represents several Skyland merchants.

The shopping center was fully leased in 2004 and contained a grocery store, fast-food restaurants, nail salons and laundromats, among other retailers.

“At least several of them are very troubled by this,” Ms. Mittleman said.

The merchants have not decided what their next step will be, Ms. Mittleman said, but they could appeal to the court to reconsider the decision because the NCRC does not have a comprehensive development plan.

“I don’t think they’re giving up,” she said. “This is their livelihood; some of them have been running these stores for years.”

Others in the community are looking forward to a new shopping center.

“Every little bit of progress is wonderful,” said Kathy Chamberlain, vice president of the Hillcrest Community Civic Association. “We’ve been waiting so long for something to happen here.”

Skyland had fallen into disrepair, suffering from not having a single manager to oversee the whole development, Ms. Chamberlain said.

“It drives us bonkers that we have to put up with the way that shopping center looks and have that eyesore in the community,” she said.

No retailers have signed to lease space in the new shopping center, Mr. Rappaport said.

“We have a verbal commitment from Target to anchor the shopping center,” Mr. Rappaport said. “We’re waiting for confirmation that the land is controlled by NCRC … to formulate an agreement.”

He expects talks to progress further when NCRC owns 90 percent of the land. But he said interest from retailers has been “very high.”

Retailers “tell us they’d like to be at the site but they would not sign a lease until they’re comfortable that the developer, NCRC in this case, has control of the land,” he said.

NCRC expects to control 100 percent of the property by the end of March. It could begin relocating existing tenants and demolishing the existing buildings in January 2007, if the eminent domain requests are approved, Mr. Risher said.

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