- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2008

Demand for retail space in the Washington area is expected to remain robust this year despite an expected downturn in the economy, according to a new report.

The region’s high household income and small amount of retail space will mean grocers in particular will continue to compete in the region, according to the report by Delta Associates, a commercial real estate research group in Alexandria, and Rappaport Cos., a real estate company in McLean.

“Overall, the Washington-area economy continues to expand, but at a slower pace,” the companies said in their report.

The Washington area is expected to gain about 9.8 million square feet of retail this year, representing an 8 percent increase from the total 116 million square feet of retail space in the region today.

Retailers are attracted to the Washington area because it has high disposable income compared with the rest of the country. Shopping centers, whether large complexes or grocery-anchored strip centers, seldom have a hard time finding tenants.

One downside to the prosperity is that shopping center owners don’t feel they need to renovate their properties. More than half of the shopping centers in the region are more than 25 years old, according to Delta and Rappaport.

“Owners might be reluctant to contribute capital when returns are solid with or without renovations,” the companies said.

Harry trumps all

Amazon.com has released the list of its best-selling products of 2007.

The top-selling book, not surprisingly, was “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” by J.K. Rowling. The most popular DVD was “Planet Earth: The Complete BBC Series,” which no doubt got a bump when it was mentioned as a gift idea on Oprah Winfrey’s television show. Other top sellers included the Senseo Douwe Egberts dark roast coffee pod and the Canon PowerShot digital camera.

In other news

• Cafe 15, the French restaurant in the Sofitel Lafayette Square hotel on 15th Street Northwest, is closing its doors. General Manager Denis Dupart said the restaurant will be replaced to suit the needs of new diners who “seek and appreciate comfort and simplicity.” The restaurant is scheduled to close Jan. 24.

• Java Green, a vegetarian restaurant in Northwest, was named the “most progressive restaurant” by PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Java Green was acknowledged for eliminating meat from its menu. The restaurant is located at 1020 19th St. NW.

• Charlie Chiang’s Ping restaurant is slated to open Feb. 7 at 4060 Campbell Ave. in the Shirlington neighborhood of Arlington. The 90-seat restaurant and 20-seat bar will serve Asian dishes such as pork shoulder braised in red wine, five-spiced stewed beef short ribs, and sweet and sour cream cheese eggplant morsels.

• California Tortilla, the Rockville chain of Mexican restaurants, has the distinct privilege of being the first local restaurant chain to have locations at all three regional airports. California Tortilla just landed a space at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Restaurants in Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport opened in May 2005 and October 2006, respectively.

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

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