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Washington City Paper

Dec. 23–29, 2005

Target Practice

by Brian Beutler

A history of the big box in Columbia Heights

For more than three years, D.C. residents have anxiously waited for the gold standard of suburban retail, Target, to open a store planned for the heart of Washington’s gentrification corridor, at 14th and Irving Streets NW. Though the store has yet to open—and won’t for a while; the most recent projections cite a late 2007 opening date—the Columbia Heights Target has already become a fixture of D.C. life:

2002
Sept. 5, 2002
During a re-election campaign event, Mayor Anthony A. Williams announces an “agreement in principle” with Target to open a store at the planned DC USA development in Columbia Heights. A D.C. government Web site announces the accomplishment with a quote from the developer, New York–based Grid Properties: “It won’t take long for the project’s financing to fall into place. We should be able to start construction by late spring, and Target should open by the summer of 2005.”

“Within days,” according to broker Kevin McDaniel, real-estate prices mushroom in the vicinity of DC USA. “Things changed even when Target was just gossip,” he says. “After that, prices jumped overnight.”

Sept. 8, 2002
Washington Post real-estate classifieds are abuzz with the news: “ONE BLOCK TO METRO, PROPOSED TARKET & OTHER NEW DEVELOPMENTS”; “COLUMBIA HEIGHTS URBAN CHIC proposed Target store & Metro just blocks.” The owner of a home at 1308 Park Road NW advertised the following: “!WOW! Walk to METRO…1.5 blocks to proposed site of Target’s retail complex!”

2003
Feb. 3, 2003
The Washington Business Journal reports that construction “could begin in mid-2004. Target is expected to anchor the project. The retailer has signed a letter of intent; a lease is being negotiated.”

2004
June 2004
Steven Kelts, 33, moves to Columbia Heights from Arlington, in large measure, he says, because of the stability and convenience he thought Target would provide. He now describes his outlook on Target as “concerned but hopeful.”

June 18, 2004
Washington Business Journal reports that the second attempt at financing the DC USA development has fallen through. National Capital Revitalization Commission President and CEO Ted Carter says, “Target is absolutely committed to this site.” Target officials don’t return the Journal reporter’s call for comment.

Sept. 26, 2004
In a Post Outlook piece, political commentator Jonetta Rose Barras cites “stories of a Target coming to Columbia Heights” as amplifying Ward 8 residents’ despair at their lack of neighborhood economic development.

October 2004
On paper, Target confirms it will anchor the DC USA development.

Nov. 8, 2004
A Target Corp. spokesperson tells the Post, “There’s a vision for reinvigorating that area, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

2005
Jan. 9, 2005
A Post story heralds Target, “slated to break ground this year,” as a sign of the neighborhood’s ongoing renewal.

May 2005
D.C. Council ponders a ban on “big-box” retailers, aimed at Wal-Mart. “City sources” tell the Washington Business Journal that Target “is concerned.”

Sept. 1, 2005
The following is posted to a neighborhood Internet discussion group: “I am about to move to Columbia Heights, and have noticed a great deal of discussion about the changing neighborhood on this listserv.…I personally am interested in keeping out some of the big box stores and chain restaurants that I hear are moving in (Target, Ruby Tuesdays) and in creating public use green space.”

October 2005
Grid completes the DC USA land dealings; under the terms of the agreement, if ground is not broken within 90 days of the agreement, Grid faces penalties from its lender, Citicorp.

Dec. 20, 2005
The closing date for the construction loan. Eighty percent of the DC USA retail space must be claimed in order to break ground. “Closing has started, with tenants under lease at an amount sufficient for the lender to proceed,” says Robert Moore, president of the Development Corporation of Columbia Heights. City sources say ground will be broken sometime in the coming months.

Unknown
Target will open its doors to Columbia Heights. Target Corp. did not return numerous calls for comment. CP

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