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Chains look at Downtown Crossing

Home Depot, Kohl's, Jordan's ponder move as Filene's disappears

Home Depot Inc., Kohl's Corp., and Jordan's Furniture have expressed interest in coming to Downtown Crossing after Federated Department Stores vacates a massive building in that location next year, according to an official involved with the talks.

The three retailers have approached the city about moving into the struggling shopping district, which will have an empty storefront on Washington Street after Federated retires the Filene's brand and closes the flagship store in Downtown Crossing.

''Home Depot, Kohl's, and Jordan's Furniture have come to us and expressed interest," said the official involved in the talks. ''It's still very early. But there has been a lot of interest."

Federated, the owner of Macy's, is still deciding whether to keep Macy's in its current building in Downtown Crossing, or move it into the Filene's space across the street. Mayor Thomas M. Menino has said Target Corp. is also interested in occupying either site should one become available.

Federated, which operates Macy's and Bloomingdales, is involved in a $17 billion merger with Filene's parent May Department Stores Co. that will result in 68 store closures nationwide and the elimination of regional store brands, such as Filene's, by the fall of 2006. Federated will replace those brands with the Macy's nameplate.

Meredith Baumann, a spokeswoman for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said the city has reached out to Target to occupy the building and is in conversations with other companies that have good ''corporate citizens' records." But she declined to identify those retailers.

Although the city does not have the authority to determine which shop moves into Downtown Crossing, Boston officials have recently renewed their focus on the historic retail district. City officials have committed more than $1 million to spruce up Downtown Crossing in the coming year with amenities, such as adding wireless Internet and an information kiosk. The city and other Downtown Crossing merchants are eager to find a new anchor to avoid leaving a major vacant space that could doom the district.

Officials at Home Depot and Kohl's could not confirm interest in Downtown Crossing, saying it is against policy to disclose potential locations. But both big box retailers have begun experimenting with opening stores in cities in the past few years.

''Urban settings like Chicago, New York, and Boston are a retailer's ideal market with the scale of demand and population density," said Yancey Casey, a Home Depot spokesman. ''But I can't confirm that we're looking specifically at Downtown Crossing."

Home Depot already has stores in West Roxbury and Dorchester, and in the past two years, the company has opened three smaller sites in city centers, two in Manhattan and one in Chicago, where the garden center is located on the roof deck.

Kohl's, which made its first push into New England about five years ago, does not have any stores in Boston. For Kohl's, a move to Downtown Crossing would be the third urban setting for the discount department store, which has more than 700 suburban locations across the country.

Jordan's, which recently started promoting a new line of furniture designed for apartments and condominiums, did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.

The Avon company has been looking to get into Boston, and several years ago talked with Boston Properties about moving into the Prudential Center in the Back Bay.

Jordan's, well-known for its campy TV commercials, has stores in Avon, Natick, Reading, and Nashua.

''Jordan's started a recent campaign for their new apartment line, and this would give them access to a huge market," said Madison Riley, a retail analyst for Kurt Salmon Associates in Boston. ''But big box retailers like Kohl's and Home Depot are doing quite well and a number of them would be interested in Downtown Crossing."

Besides Downtown Crossing, Federated said it will shutter six Massachusetts stores in shopping centers where both a Macy's and Filene's currently exist. It will close four Macy's stores (South Shore Plaza in Braintree, Westgate Mall in Brockton, Natick Mall, and Northshore Mall in Peabody) and two Filene's stores (Burlington Mall and a Cape Cod home store in Hyannis).

All remaining Filene's stores will be converted into Macy's.

Jenn Abelson can be reached at abelson@globe.com.

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