What once would have been an American superstore—Walmart—is now set to be a German supermarket: Lidl. The discount grocery chain will occupy more than 29,000 square feet at the long-delayed Skyland Town Center development in Ward 7, the city’s easternmost ward, as part of a deal announced last week by Mayor Muriel Bowser and two D.C.-area developers.
The plans for Lidl to anchor Skyland are perhaps the biggest boon for the development after Walmart pulled out of it in early 2016 (a decision for which the retail giant committed—in a legal settlement last year—to paying the District $1.3 million). They also will benefit an area of the city long-underserved by grocery stores. Experts consider much of the land east of the Anacostia River to be food deserts, with precious few grocers providing healthy-food access.
The town center project is being built on 18 acres where Good Hope Road, Naylor Road, and Alabama Avenue SE meet. The first phase of the development, consisting of 84,500 square feet of retail (including a CVS) and 263 apartments, is scheduled to be finished by 2021. At full buildout, the project will boast up to 135,000 square feet of retail and 500 apartments. Firms Rappaport and WC Smith have been co-developing the project for well over a decade, and it has received foreign investment as well as tax-increment financing, a public subsidy.
“We selected Skyland Town Center because it offers District residents an easily accessible, convenient and visible site,” Johannes Fieber, the CEO of Lidl U.S., noted in a statement. “Understanding the history of the site and the tremendous anticipation from the community, we look forward to building a store customized for the shoppers of Skyland Town Center.” The store will be housed in a stand-alone building and have roughly 200 parking spaces.
Headquartered in Arlington since 2015, Lidl’s U.S. arm operates over 65 stores in nine East Coast states, according to the Skyland development team. Bowser’s office says the nonprofit Washington D.C. Economic Partnership first met with representatives of Lidl five years ago.