- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 27, 2007

LAS VEGAS

Retailers were aggressively pursuing the Washington area at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual convention last week.

The convention, where retailers, developers and city officials converge to make deals, drew about 45,000 people. Retailers and restaurateurs cited the trifecta of high education levels, high income and high growth as the reason they wanted to be in the District.

“We’re working very, very hard to find space in D.C.,” said Andy Todd, president of Steve & Barry’s discount clothing store.

The chain has one local store in the Potomac Mills shopping center in Prince William County, Va., and is looking for more.

Steve & Barry’s, which was founded in 1985 as a shop for inexpensive college gear, was expanded to include all types of clothes for less than $15. The 200-store chain has locations in 33 states and plans to expand with 75 to 100 new stores this year, Mr. Todd said.

Some retailers are getting so desperate to be in the Washington area for public companies, they’re also interested in having a Washington address to impress shareholders that they’re taking the first good spaces they can find in the region, even if it’s in the far suburbs.

“There are retailers who want to be in D.C. and never before would have taken Waldorf or Dulles,” said Michael R. Zacharia, senior vice president at C.B. Richard Ellis, a McLean real estate company, from the convention center floor. “They’re getting more flexible.”

Panda Express, the Chinese restaurant chain, also expressed serious interest in the Washington area. It has a deal to open in the DCUSA project in Columbia Heights and is seriously considering spaces in Wards 7 and 8 and in a new development at New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road Northeast, said William Washington, regional real estate manager.

The Rosemead, Calif., chain wants to open 35 restaurants in the Washington area over the next three years, he said. It has about 15 eateries in the region now.

“We want to open more restaurants in the Washington area and really be part of the towns we’re in,” Mr. Washington said.

What happenedin Vegas

“S-N-A-R-K-Y” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, describing other publications’ articles about how much the state spent about $160,000 to send a delegation to the convention.

“We only get grief because it’s Las Vegas,” he added. “If it was in Detroit, we wouldn’t.”

High-tech toys The Washington, DC Economic Partnership’s booth featured a new, $150,000 video showcasing retail and development opportunities in the District, specifically the waterfront area. The booth also had the city’s geographic information system (GIS) on display. The computer mapping system can show retailers a 3-D map of the city with layers highlighting everything from available retail space and area demographics to zones or property lines.

“I don’t know how long it takes to get 75 meetings in the District of Columbia.” Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said, recounting how productive the convention can be. The city held 75-plus meetings with retailers at the convention.

“Chirp, chirp.” The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development’s booth, decorated like a homey porch, had a realistic bird-chirp sound effect.

cShaquille O’Neal spotted in the new Wynn Las Vegas hotel, where the District was holding its networking reception Tuesday night. Too bad the basketball player was not sighted in the District’s reception.

Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at jhaberkornwashingtontimes.com or 202/636-4836.

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