Market renovation is under way

And on Monday, it was quiet. At least it was inside the Broadway Market. Maybe it was the sunshine, or the arcade's current economic climate. Perhaps a general awareness that the mall will soon undergo a major transformation helped keep people away. But the most noticeable sound came from a saw cutting through metal as an empty kiosk was being broken down.

Following months of rumors, Madison Marquette, the Broadway Market's Washington, D.C.-based owner, announced two weeks ago that most of the market's ground floor would be turned into a QFC. In the process, Fred Meyer, the current anchor tenant, would cease to be. (QFC and Fred Meyer are both owned by the Kroger Company.) Construction was slated to start in early July. But with contracts signed the work has already begun.

According to Broadway Market manager Rob Pittman, the prep work currently underway will ramp up through the second week of July. But he said that all remaining tenants, roughly 30 businesses, will remain open during construction. Many will move to the mall's second floor.

Despite the large QFC taking over the lion's share of the mall - at 63,000 square feet the store will occupy nearly two-thirds of the mall's retail floor space - Pittman said that most of the current tenants will remain. Interestingly, Fred Meyer will remain open for the time being, but only a smaller version of its former self, condensed to the lower level.

"Only about five businesses couldn't or chose not to relocate," Pittman said. He added that barricades will seal the construction areas off from retail traffic, an important step since many of the ground floor businesses will relocate to the mall's second floor. That the market was operating at well less than full capacity no doubt helps facilitate many business's upcoming relocation.

As for a time frame, Pittman said that a huge portion of the work should be completed by September. This should allow something of a staged opening for QFC. Work should be complete by the end of the year.

"Our goal is to have everything in place by the Christmas holiday," he said.

At his cell phone kiosk, Antonio Patton was upbeat about the market's future. Having operated Broadway Wireless for more than three years, he said he thinks the change will improve the market's fortunes.

"I think the QFC will solve some of the crime and drug problems we've had," he said. "Maybe when things are done it will be better here. I think a whole lot of people have been turned off by some of the issues."

Asked where his business will be located, he shrugged his shoulders. He's been less than pleased about the timeliness of information regarding the project, but he remains in good spirits. He's glad he'll be able to stay.

"I was upset not knowing what was going on," he said. "I'm an optimist, and this will be good in the long term. This place has been dying out, and there will still be a lot of smaller businesses around. There will be something new to look at."

"I figured I was staying," said Paul Dwoskin, owner of Broadway Video. "I did have a lease. A lot of the people who moved were on month-to-month leases. I'm not happy with the way the news was announced. We were in limbo, not knowing what was going to happen. But change is good. We can roll with the punches."

Dwoskin, who is also chair of the Broadway Business Improvement Association, is optimistic that putting in a large QFC will be a positive step for the Broadway Market. He felt safety issues would improve and that QFC would be a large draw.

"Having a great grocery store here should help bring in more traffic from both sides of the street," he said. "But I hope this is used as a vehicle for Broadway promotion. I am optimistic this will be an improvement. This could be a great thing. It's certainly better than an empty mall."

Not all business will remain. Magical Garden will close, as will The Massage Shop. The liquor store will have a temporary location at the mall prior to reopening across the street.

Beyond the front counter at Rockin' Betty's, Sandy Sickler was less than sanguine about how things turned out for the clothing boutique. Rockin' Betty's will close on July 10. She said the owner was offered an upstairs space roughly half the size of the current store, an arrangement that wasn't going to work. Sickler handed out a blue flier that bemoans an evil corporate landlord that favors a huge company rather than the smaller, independent businesses that are more in tune with Capitol Hill.

Owner Lisa Chang also owns the Broadway Boutique and Trendy Wendy. Her plan is to open in another Broadway location when a suitable space can be found. In the meantime, her other stores will absorb some of her inventory, as well as the store's employees.

Sickler wondered if another grocery store was needed on Broadway, especially if it comes at the expense of Fred Meyer, a store that sold many common household items unavailable anywhere else on Broadway.

"I think it's really sad what's happening here," she said. "What was Kroger thinking? There are plenty of places to get groceries, but things at Fred Meyer, at the smaller businesses, were unique to the area."

She lamented the loss of individuality the Broadway Market will experience when the new QFC is up and running.

"It's just a shame," she said.

Doug Schwartz is the editor of the Capitol Hill Times. He can be reached at or 461-1308.[[In-content Ad]]