- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2007

Washington-area retailers, developers, brokers and elected officials are hitting Las Vegas this week. But they won’t be spending time — or, at least, much time — at the slots.

They are attending the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual convention — the largest gathering of retail-related professionals in the country and a place to make deals.

About 140 D.C. businesses are scheduled to attend. The tally — counted by the Washington, DC Economic Partnership, which spearheads the District’s efforts on drawing retailers to the city — is thought to be a record.

“No one can remember if there’s ever been that many businesses attending the event. It’s indicative of how large the retail pipeline is right now through the next 36 months,” said Steve Moore, president and chief executive officer. “There were maybe no more than two dozen [businesses] last year.”

The D.C. effort will start with retail problem areas, Mr. Moore said.

“We’re looking at the most immediate problem: grocery stores, especially grocery stores east of the [Anacostia] River,” he said, adding that from there, the partnership looks for retailers for the city’s largest projects, namely the old convention center site, the area north of Massachusetts Avenue Northwest and the area around the new baseball stadium.

“The problem is the phone continues to ring,” Mr. Moore said of retailers still trying to make appointments to meet with the District at the convention.

The partnership and city have souped up its booth size, a sort of symbol of importance at the convention, from 600 to 2,000 square feet.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is scheduled to attend, following the lead of his predecessor, Anthony A. Williams.

Also planning to attend are Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary David Edgerley. Mr. O’Malley also attended the convention when he was the Baltimore mayor.

Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson and the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp. also plan to attend.

“What it does is, it allows us to meet one-on-one with the retail development and the rest of the industry folks,” said David Tillman, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. “With the governor there, it sends a strong message that we have local and state support for development in the state of Maryland.”

Maryland is scheduled to meet with at least 11 developers or retailers today. Four of those projects alone, which are at various stages from preliminary talks to near-completion, would bring in 70,000 jobs and more than $3 billion in retail investment, Mr. Tillman said, declining to provide more details until deals are signed.

The Maryland booth is partnering directly with Harford, Howard, Cecil, Prince George’s and Baltimore County and Baltimore city.

In other news …

Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc. announced this month that it is targeting the Washington area for expansion. There is one Arby’s restaurant in the District and 52 in the Greater Washington area, but the company plans to open 77 more stores in the next few years.

Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Send news to Jen Haberkorn at jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-4836.

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