A 20-Year Project Brings a Community the Grocer and Sit-Down Restaurants They Dreamed Of


By year’s end, local retail developer Rappaport will have delivered a grocery store, sit-down restaurants, residences and more to Washington, D.C.’s underserved Skyland neighborhood — two decades after CEO Gary Rappaport won a bid for a collective 40 parcels and set about to build a high-end suburban center. The project, now known as Skyland Town Center, took vision — from a singular retail developer who imagined what 40 separate parcels could do together but also from a developer that dug in to see what the community itself envisioned.

In May 2002, Gary Rappaport won a bid from the District of Columbia to acquire 17 acres occupying four square blocks in the district’s 7th and 8th wards. Individual landowners had been operating stores on each of the 40-some plots independently. Despite Rappaport’s winning bid, the project still faced an eminent domain battle that reached the Supreme Court as the district sought to declare the area condemned so it could be sold it to a private developer. That case was settled in 2014, and the site sold to Rappaport a year later.

Gary Rappaport estimates about 100 in-person meetings with local residents that solidified the development’s primary objective: the first new grocery story for Southeast D.C. in more than 10 years. Walmart would have filled that need but pulled out of plans to anchor Skyland in 2016. Three years later, Lidl stepped up to fill the gap with its first District of Columbia store. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the lease in May 2019 at the annual ICSC conference in Las Vegas. The store broke ground in January and will open Sept. 28.

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