- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 6, 2006

Bethesda Row is expanding to include a pedestrian-friendly plaza.

Construction has begun on the former site of a Giant Food store to add 180 apartments and more retail and restaurant space to the already substantial retail and office complex in downtown Bethesda. When it is completed in early 2008, Bethesda Row will encompass seven blocks and 476,000 square feet of commercial space.

Project plans include a “Festival Street,” an open-air main street with cafe seating that will incorporate the European feel already there.

“It’s always been our plan to continue to grow in Bethesda,” said Don Briggs, senior vice president of development at Federal Realty Investment Trust, the Rockville developer of the property.

Three of the four tenants that have signed on at Bethesda Row have locations in Georgetown. The owners of Sonoma Restaurant and Wine Bar in Capitol Hill and Mendocino Grille in Georgetown have leased space to open Pacific, an American cuisine restaurant. Retailers include Blue Mercury, a spa chain with a location in Georgetown, and J. McLaughlin, a custom-clothing store that is scheduled to open a Georgetown location this fall.

Bethesda Row also will feature Lebanese Taverna, a chain restaurant with five other Washington-area locations.

About half of the development’s 43,000 square feet of new restaurant and retail space has yet to be leased.

The town-square concept — with large pedestrian plazas, outdoor cafe seating and a mix of office, retail and residential space — is popular with developers across the country.

“People want to get a bite to eat, go shopping and people watching,” Mr. Briggs said. “They want to be on the street [and] look up at the sky.”

Maryland nets visitors

Maryland recorded more than 27 million domestic visitors last year, according to figures released last week.

That is an increase from the 21 million visitors recorded in 2004 but isn’t a true comparison because the company tracking the figures, the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), used a different survey method this year.

The numbers of day-trippers and overnight visitors were almost even; about 20 percent came to Maryland for business, according to the survey. Nearly one-third of tourists came from within the state, followed by travelers from Virginia and Pennsylvania.

TIA now conducts its travel research using Internet surveys instead of postal surveys it had used in the past. The new approach produces a larger sample size and provides a more accurate picture, the association said.

In other news …

• Construction has started on exterior renovations at Mazza Gallerie designed to make the shopping center more pedestrian-friendly. The Neiman Marcus facade, storefront displays, the corner of Western and Wisconsin avenues and the Friendship Heights Metro entrance will undergo remodeling.

• The St. Regis Hotel is scheduled to close Sept. 1 for a 10-month renovation. The hotel, on 16th Street Northwest, will reduce the number of rooms from 193 to 178, creating 15 new suites.

• P.F. Chang’s China Bistro opened last week in Arlington Gateway, an office and retail building on Glebe Road in Arlington. It is the chain’s fifth restaurant in the D.C. area.

Retail & Hospitality runs Mondays. E-mail [email protected] or call 202/636-4836.

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