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5 Car-Centric D.C. Shopping Centers That Are Ripe For Redevelopment

As D.C. looks for sites to build housing to support its ongoing surge of new residents, some of the best candidates have been low-rise retail centers with large surface parking lots. Many of these sites have been redeveloped in recent years or have plans in the works, but several prime sites near transit remain stagnant.

Bisnow scoured the city and found five car-centric retail centers that do not have redevelopment plans, but appear poised to add density and bring new housing in the future. 

Hechinger Mall

A rendering of H Street Main Street's conceptual design for the Hechinger Mall development, which it is pitching to the landowners.

At the eastern edge of the H Street corridor and the intersection of five major thoroughfares, the Hechinger Mall site is roughly the size of CityCenterDC. The shopping center is anchored by Safeway, Modell's Sporting Goods and Ross Dress for Less, with large parking lots on all sides. It sits along the D.C. Streetcar route and has developments springing up all around it. 

H Street Main Street, part of the Department of Small and Local Business Development's D.C. Main Streets Program, has worked with a consulting firm and an architect to design a major development on the property that would rise 11 stories and could include up to 3,000 dwelling units. The plan would include the CVS Pharmacy site across the street and would create a pedestrian-only plaza along Maryland Avenue. The site is currently zoned MU-7, allowing for medium-density mixed-use development up to 65 feet, so a developer would have to apply for more density to bring the plan to life.  

But the owners of the Hechinger Mall and CVS sites, Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. and Eastbanc, have not publicly expressed any plans or interest in redeveloping the property in the near future. Still, this well-located site on the edge of a buzzing neighborhood appears destined to rise into a dense, mixed-use development in the future.

Rhode Island Place

The Giant-anchored shopping center on Brentwood Road NE
  • Location: 1050 Brentwood Road NE, 901 Rhode Island Ave. NE
  • Size: 887K SF of land area
  • Age of buildings: 12 years
  • Owner: Home Depot, Eastbanc, Acadia Realty Trust

The Rhode Island Avenue Metro station is sandwiched in between two nearby low-rise shopping centers with large parking lots. One of those, the Rhode Island Avenue Shopping Center, is slated for redevelopment, with MRP Realty planning to break ground this fall on a 1,450-unit project.

But another large car-centric retail center sits on the other side of the station with no plans in the works. Anchored by a Giant and a Home Depot, the Rhode Island Place shopping center has vehicular entrances from Rhode Island Avenue and Brentwood Road, but no easy path from the Metro station, which sits directly behind the property. Urban Atlantic developed the adjacent property into the Rhode Island Row mixed-use development in 2011, but developers have not embarked on a plan for its next-door neighbor. 

Home Depot owns its side of the retail center, the Giant piece of the property is owned by a subsidiary of Eastbanc, and the remaining inline stores are owned by Acadia Realty Trust. The site is zoned MU-5A, which allows for mixed-use development reaching up to 70 feet with "an emphasis on residential use." The site currently has one-story retail centers, no residential units and a sea of parking spaces, making it a likely candidate for eventual redevelopment. 

East River Park Shopping Center

The Safeway-anchored East River Park shopping center on Benning Road NE
  • Location: 322 40th St. NE
  • Size: 265K SF of land area
  • Age: Over 30 years old
  • Owner: Cedar Realty

Sitting near the busy intersection of Benning Road and Minnesota Avenue NE in Ward 7, East River Park shopping center features a series of one-story buildings anchored by a Safeway and a CVS Pharmacy with a large surface parking lot. The property is about half a mile from the Minnesota Avenue Metro station and is situated along the D.C. Streetcar's planned Benning Road extension. District officials have wavered on the funding for future expansion of the streetcar, but have maintained that enough money has been set aside to build the Benning Road extension by 2023. 

Cedar Realty acquired the shopping center in 2016 for $39M. Katz Properties had acquired it in 2012 from CityInterests for $33.6M and upgraded the property. CityInterests had previously planned to build a 700K SF mixed-use project on the site with housing and offices before strong market conditions led it to sell the property. On the opposite corner of the intersection, Donatelli Development in 2014 built Park 7, a 376-unit apartment building with 200K SF of retail. 

The East River Park site is zoned MU-7, defined as medium-density mixed-use development with maximum heights of 65 feet. No plans have been announced for redevelopment of the single-story retail property, but if the streetcar extension is completed and D.C.'s development wave continues to push east, it could be a quality candidate for adding new housing. 

Sam's Park & Shop

The low-rise Sam's Park & Shop retail center next to the Cleveland Park Metro station.
  • Location: 3529 Connecticut Ave. NW
  • Size: 49K SF of land area
  • Age: Over 85 years old
  • Owner: Federal Realty

The first thing Metro riders see if they look east upon exiting the Cleveland Park station is a surface parking lot. Sam's Park & Shop is not a large shopping center, but its location on top of Metro makes it a logical place to add density. The property, featuring a CVS, a Capital One Bank branch, a General Nutrition Center and several food options, recently signed Target to open a small-format store.  

The site is zoned NC-3, a special designation made for Cleveland Park to comport with the area's historic district that allows for buildings up to 40 feet tall. The property does have history; it represented a pioneering development in the early 1930s as one of the first retail properties designed around the automobile and was praised for its innovation in a 1932 edition of Architectural Record. 

While car-centric design may have been innovative in the 1930s, today's trend is toward building walkable, mixed-use projects with housing and other components. The property's owner has plenty of experience in that type of development. Federal Realty has also built Pike & Rose and Bethesda Row in Montgomery County

The Shops At Park Village

The Shops at Park Village at 1535 Alabama Ave. SE
  • Location: 1535 Alabama Ave. SE
  • Size: 264K SF of land area
  • Age: Opened in 2007
  • Owner: WC Smith

When WC Smith delivered The Shops at Park Village in 2007, the property's Giant became the first full-service grocery store to be built in Ward 8 in over 40 years. The one-story retail complex was developed on the site of the former Camp Simms military installation and also features an IHOP, a Subway, a Pizza Boli's, a bank, a barbershop and a nail salon. 

But given its location and zoning, the site could be due for another redevelopment in the coming years. It sits about a half-mile from the Congress Heights Metro station and the St. Elizabeths East campus, which is undergoing a massive redevelopment. The site is zoned MU-5A, which allows for mixed-use development reaching up to 70 feet with "an emphasis on residential use."

WC Smith is currently undertaking the redevelopment of another shopping center about one mile north on Alabama Avenue. The developer, in partnership with Rappaport, secured financing in February to break ground on Skyland Town Center, a 500-unit development replacing the Skyland Shopping Center.