- The Washington Times - Monday, May 12, 2003

Washington, D.C., officials will try their luck in Las Vegas again this year at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual spring convention next week.

It’s the fifth year the city is sending a delegation to the industry’s biggest event, which is expected to draw 30,000 people this year.

Throughout his tenure, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams has sought to draw more retail into the city, particularly to underserved areas such as Columbia Heights and Anacostia. Attending the event has helped D.C. officials persuade big retailers such as Kmart and Home Depot to open new stores around town.

This year will be the first the District will have its own booth to showcase properties and neighborhoods to retailers and developers. In the past, the District shared a booth with other municipalities.

“This gives us more elbow room to market the District,” said Michael G. Stevens, president of the Washington DC Marketing Center. “It will be like our own storefront.”

The ICSC convention, May 18-21 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, will have more than 850 exhibitors, including retailers, developers, brokers, leasing agents and cities.

Mr. Stevens is one of a cast of about 20, including Mr. Williams, who will represent the District at the convention.

The District’s 600-square-foot booth, which will have a 14-foot-tall replica of the Washington Monument, will be equipped with two conference rooms for meetings, as well as the city’s promotional signage and brochures.

“We’re really taking it to another level,” Mr. Stevens said.

Twenty-two meetings have been scheduled with retailers. Mr. Stevens said the focus is on grocery stores, apparel and home-furnishings retailers, restaurant chains, and entertainment venues.

The trip will cost the city about $80,000. About 40 percent of that will be covered by corporate sponsors.

Potomac Electric Power Co., Nixon Peabody, Reed Smith, the National Capital Revitalization Corp., the Downtown DC Business Improvement District and Chicago Title Insurance are underwriting some of the costs, including the booth space, receptions and dinners the District will host, as well as related publications and marketing materials.

Former IMRA chief dies

Robert J. Verdisco, former president of the International Mass Retail Association (IMRA), died April 30 of complications from cancer. He was 60.

Mr. Verdisco retired from the IMRA on Dec. 31 after an 18-year career with the Arlington trade organization, which represents the discount mass-retail industry. He became president in 1990 after serving as vice president of government relations since 1984.

Under Mr. Verdisco’s tenure as president, the association, which once represented only retailers, expanded to include retail suppliers of products and services. The association’s membership comprises 127 retailers and 431 supplier companies.

Before joining the IMRA, Mr. Verdisco, a lawyer, worked for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.

Mr. Verdisco is survived by his wife, Pat; daughter, Liz; son, Matt; daughter-in-law, Karen; grandson, Connor; two sisters, Laurie Verdisco and Maryann Voight; and brother, George Verdisco.

In other news …

The Hamilton Crowne Plaza Washington D.C. finished its $400,000 lobby renovation, restoring its vaulted ceiling and intricate detail from the 1920s. The lobby makeover is the last part of a $6 million renovation of the 318-room hotel at 14th and K streets NW.

Got news? Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884.

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