- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 21, 2003

Washington will soon get a taste of the wine country. An upscale retail concept similar to a public market — called American Wine Country — is expected to debut here within the next 18 months to two years.

The center will not be like an ordinary mall or a Main Street-style shopping center. Instead American Wine Country will have the look and feel of a sophisticated public market with stores and restaurants that aren’t found at other retail centers. The tenants will vary from food and wine to crafts and apparel, keeping with a wine-country theme.

A location for the 70,000- to 75,000-square-foot enclosed center has not been finalized, nor have any tenants been signed, but founder Terry Marasco is optimistic about the concept that he and his partner created on a cocktail napkin.

The two- to three-level center will have about 60 long- and short-term tenants, including a large wine and spirits store, red meat, seafood and poultry vendors and three formal restaurants. There will be 25 temporary tenants, which can sign leases for one, three or six months. Those spaces can be filled with a retailer or vendor’s product samples like a new butter or cheese, Mr. Marasco said.

“Anytime you come back there will be something new associated with the theme,” said Mr. Marasco, who is a principal at Themed Mall Holdings LLC in San Francisco.

The center also will have eight to 10 smaller dining vendors with some featuring local and regional cuisine, situated around picnic tables in a courtyard.

Mr. Marasco said the project could range from $10 million to $50 million depending on whether they find an existing building or have to build the center from the ground up.

Mr. Marasco and his partner, Larry Williams, chose the Washington area for the first American Wine Country based on its demographics and attraction of tourists and business travelers. They are looking for space around the city and close to a Metro stop, including sites in Northern Virginia.

If the concept is successful here, Mr. Marasco and Mr. Williams want to expand American Wine Country to Atlanta, Chicago and Boston.

Holiday travel and beyond

Washingtonians are getting away for the holidays.

Cheap Tickets reported last week a 16 percent increase from last year in flights from Ronald Reagan Washington National and Washington Dulles International airports for travel between Dec. 23 and Dec. 27.

Many D.C.-based travelers are escaping the cold. Seven of their top 10 destinations are in warmer climates: Los Angeles, Houston and Dallas as well as Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Orlando in Florida, according to the online travel site.

Overall travel will be up this winter, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. Americans are planning to take 213.4 million trips during December, January and February. That is up 2.3 percent from last year.

An increase in business travel is contributing to the growth in winter travel. Americans are expected to take more than 31 million business trips during the three-month period — a 3.7 percent increase from last season, TIA said.

Donna De Marco can be reached at 202-636-4884. Retail & Hospitality runs every other Monday.

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