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Target’s Capital Plan: Deploy Diplomacy to Grab D.C. Retail Site

Target Stores is quietly negotiating with developers and city officials to buy space in Washington’s new D.C. USA retail complex.

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District officials broached the idea with the Minneapolis retailer at last year’s International Convention of Shopping Centers in Las Vegas.

"It had always been a question of finding the right spot," said a spokesman for the Office of Planning & Economic Development. "We are also negotiating for a first source hiring agreement specifying that all the initial retail jobs come from local residents."

Around the time of the National Gallery’s second call seeking Target’s corporate backing, Washington neighborhood associations had also begun voicing concerns about plans for the new store, saying its long, blank facade would be too large for the site. Target officials argued the facades would be broken up with windows, entrances and small retail spaces set aside for local entrepreneurs, and parking will be underground. In addition, Target has talked to local neighborhood representatives about its reputation for supporting inner-city job training programs.

So in the good neighbor spirit, Target officials took advantage of their Washington social event to invite the local neighborhood committee officials along to the National Gallery.

The night before the gala opening, Target officials hosted a lower-key dinner at the Bella Roma Restaurant in the grittier Columbia Heights part of town to talk with local government officials and neighborhood organizations about their plans to open a large new downtown store and retail mall. Then they invited those guests to come along to the National Gallery party the next night where Mayor Anthony Williams would speak about the new store.

"It’s great because we won’t have to drive to Virginia anymore," said Charles E. Matiella, a member of the local neighborhood association, who attended Target’s dinner for neighborhood officials, where he got an invitation to drop by the National Gallery’s reception.

But when Matiella started to enthuse about Target coming to Washington, he was shushed by a Target employee.

"Target has expansion plans to open up a dozen new area stores in the next five years with one to be D.C. USA, but there is nothing definite yet," said Remington as he turned to focus on the art.

City officials figure if all goes well, Target will be making a public announcement of plans for the new retail space in the fall.
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