- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2006

Mervis Diamond Importers is looking forward to returning to its Rockville roots, now that it has won its lawsuit against a Rockville developer.

Mervis Diamond won its request for Ronald Cohen Cos., the Rockville development company, to deliver the space it owns at 1775 Rockville Pike that Mervis agreed to lease in 2004.

Mervis Diamond also was awarded $2.2 million in damages as well as legal fees, said Ronnie Mervis, vice president and co-founder of the company, which has three jewelry stores in the Washington area.

The parties signed a 10-year lease with two five-year options, Mr. Mervis said. The store originally was scheduled to open early last year.

The landlord did not deliver the space, so Mervis Diamond filed suit in Montgomery County Circuit Court in March 2005. Mr. Mervis claims that Ronald Cohen of Ronald Cohen Cos., after signing the lease with Mervis, decided he would rather have condominiums on the site.

Mr. Cohen said he plans to appeal, but wouldn’t say on what grounds. If the decision stands, Mr. Mervis said, he expects the 3,000-square-foot store to open in the spring.

The site was to replace Mervis Diamonds’ first Rockville location, at 11921 Rockville Pike, which the company closed in 2004.

“We were always in Rockville. It was our first endeavor in the United States.” Mr. Mervis said.

“It’s been a huge drag on us,” he said of the lawsuit. “I’m more comfortable in a diamond mine than a courtroom.”

Lot in District a circus

That big empty lot in the middle of downtown — the space at Ninth and H streets Northwest that used to hold the old Washington Convention Center — is finally being filled, at least temporarily.

Cirque du Soleil will occupy the space from Oct. 26 to Nov. 26 to perform “Corteo,” described as a festive parade featuring clowns and the show’s signature acrobatics. Tickets cost $40 to $75 for adults and $28 to $52.50 for children ages 2 to 12.

The Montreal performance company will set up a temperature-controlled circus tent that will hold an audience of more than 2,600 people.

Cirque du Soleil was last in the Washington area in 2004, when it set up in the parking lot of RFK Stadium.

The old convention center was demolished and the land was cleared in late 2004. The site is now a parking lot.

Construction on the convention center’s permanent replacement — a mixed-use project of nine buildings with 772 condos and apartments, 275,000 square feet of retail space, 300,000 square feet of office space, 1,900 parking spaces and, possibly, a public library — is scheduled to start in 2008.

In other news …

• Safeway Inc., the second-largest grocery chain in the Washington area, is trying to make its buildings as green as its produce.

The Pleasanton, Calif., company has bought 174,000 megawatt hours of wind energy, making it the largest corporate buyer of wind energy in California. It’s enough to power the company’s headquarters, San Francisco stores and gas stations nationwide for two years.

• Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news to Jen Haberkorn at 202/636-4836 or [email protected]

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