After 22 years at Union Station in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Mint’s sales center there will close operations for the final time at 4 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time Sept. 28.
Shuttering of the sales kiosk is being blamed on prohibitive rental costs, with leasing expenditures increasing more than seven-fold since the kiosk opened in 1991.
Tom Jurkowsky, director of the U.S. Mint’s Office of Public Affairs, said Sept. 11 that Mint officials made the decision Sept. 4 to allow the Mint’s current lease for the Union Station location to expire Sept. 30.
The Union Station location also presented security concerns for personnel and products, and the Mint could not effectively advertise and promote its products at the site, Jurkowsky said.
Security concerns included visibility and lighting, physical security of the inventory and unclear law enforcement jurisdictions, Jurkowsky said.
Closing the 120-square-foot Union Station sales center located outside the entrance to the East Hall will save at least $900,000 —the cost of signing a new five-year lease at $180,000 per year.
Jurkowsky said the lease contained an overage rent provision that was triggered at a monthly sales threshold of $100,000; if that level were to be reached, 6 percent of the gross overage would be added to the regular monthly rent.
The savings will be put toward securing more cost effective retail sales space in the nation’s capital, according to Jurkowsky.
The U.S. Mint plans to increase awareness of its other Washington, D.C., sales center — located on the first floor of Mint headquarters at 801 Ninth St. N.W. — just 1.4 miles from Union Station.
Personnel that staffed the Union Station location will be moved to the sales center at Mint headquarters, with hours of operation extended, Jurkowsky said.
Expanding the hours of the sales center at Mint headquarters, Jurkowsky said, to 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Eastern Time Monday through Friday, will “allow customers an opportunity to make purchases after work hours and provide for regular tourist traffic.”
Reasons to close
In the 22 years the Union Station kiosk has been in operation, the business environment there has shifted from being a retail destination, becoming more of a transportation hub, Jurkowsky said.
Rental costs have also skyrocketed. Jurkowsky said the current cost for leasing the space is $1,500 per square foot and $180,000 annually. Costs in 1991 were approximately $200 per square foot, he said.
Other retail locations with similar traffic and desirability range in pricing from $52 to $150 per square foot, Jurkowsky said.
The Union Station location offers no opportunity for expansion nor, because of signage restrictions, any way to adequately promote the location, Jurkowsky said.
The Mint has experienced a steady decline in retail sales at the Union Station location, Jurkowsky said.
In contrast, the Mint headquarters sales center attracts considerable foot traffic and offers advertising promotion through adequate signage, he said.
The headquarters location is ideally located in the bustling Gallery Place/Chinatown/Penn Quarter area, Jurkowsky said. It is close to the convention center and Verizon Center, and is directly across the street from the new CityCenterDC project nearing completion, he said.
The headquarters location is Metro-accessible, close to both Gallery Place/Chinatown station and Metro Center station, he said.
“More customers will have the chance to use our coin exchange machines in the headquarters lobby for the latest America the Beautiful Quarters Program coin,” Jurkowsky said.
To effect the transition from Union Station to the Mint headquarters location until additional, cost-efficient retail space can be secured, Mint officials are taking the following steps:
➤ Directing customers from Union Station to the Mint headquarters sales counter located in the lobby of 801 Ninth St. N.W. by publicizing dates, its location and hours of operation, both verbally and through signage and print.
➤ Expanding hours of operation at the headquarters sales counter.
➤ Communicating Mint headquarters location and what the Mint offers to tour bus companies.
➤ Updating all flyers, Web pages and other communication vehicles mentioning Union Station.
➤ Announcing the change via social media (Facebook and Twitter).
The U.S. Mint will also effect the transport of valuable inventory, safes and cabinets securely from Union Station to headquarters with Mint Police assistance, Jurkowsky said. ■