Finally?!?!? “The vacant retail spaces in and around the Convention Center present a tremendous opportunity to invigorate the community”

by Prince Of Petworth August 27, 2015 at 10:15 am 32 Comments

Convention Center Retail

From a press release:

“Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, announced today it has hired Streetsense, a multidisciplinary design and strategy firm specializing in retail, restaurant, hospitality, and real estate solutions, to lease retail spaces around the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The brokerage team working on the project consists of Director of Retail Strategy, Jared Meier; Director of Investment Sales and Leasing, Roy Hill; and Retail Strategist, Michael Johns.

Capitalizing on the spirit of Events DC’s ‘Bring Your Imagination’ campaign, this new partnership will activate retail spaces on the exterior of the Convention Center, consisting of 11 retail locations, totaling approximately 19,000 square feet.

“The vacant retail spaces in and around the Convention Center present a tremendous opportunity to invigorate the community,” says Max Brown, board chair for Events DC. “Engaging the local neighborhood is one of our top priorities and we are focused on finding the right retailers to fill the available space to continue the revitalization of Shaw, and connect the corridor from U Street down to NY Avenue.”

Events DC is focused on bringing in the right mix of vendors, including restaurants, services and local merchants to serve both local residents and event attendees.

“There is positive momentum to bring our vision to life – in fact, our partner Streetsense has already hit the ground running,” said Gregory A. O’Dell, president and chief executive officer of Events DC. “They have been actively pursuing exciting new concepts for retail at the Convention Center and, as a result, we are in discussions with several amazing prospects that we believe our customers, residents and visitors to the Convention Center will thoroughly enjoy.”

Streetsense is recognized as a top design, brokerage, and strategy firm, known for its involvement in high-profile projects such as the upcoming Collection at Chevy Chase and the DC Vibrant Streets Toolkit, and work with influential clients including JBG, Mike Isabella, and The Ritz-Carlton. The firm is also well known for integrating market analysis, urban planning, architecture, branding, and retail strategy. The brokerage team has played an active role in real estate transactions throughout the Shaw and Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhoods, and have established the immediate area as a food haven for the city.

Current plans for the area include exploring the modification of existing retail storefronts, offering neighborhood-serving goods and amenities, and repositioning the fascia along 9th Street NW by incorporating artistic elements, murals and vertical plant installation.

“We are thrilled to join Events DC in this endeavor and remain enthusiastic about the area’s growth and long-term potential,” said Marc Ratner, chief executive officer of Streetsense. “We look forward to making a constructive impact on the community and the cityscape of the Convention Center.”

  • Eleven

    Yes yes yesssss. I would appreciate some sushi, a BGR, a sports bar that is better than Velocity, a Pacers, and obviously an Apple Store. Gracias!

    • rob

      Ha and people are wondering why the surge in crime. Very one-sided development catering to a very particular crowd.

      • mail

        what does this have to do with crime?

        • Boomer

          Having cool stuff in your neighborhood makes it more likely for you to want to rob people, deal drugs and steal cars. Duh.

          • rob

            When you have low-income housing a couple blocks away (and all the whole show at 7th and O), yes, having ‘cool’ stuff in your neighborhood does complicate things and in my view paints you as a target when you come out of that Apple store with your shiny new gadget. Duh.

      • Duponter

        You seem like an expert on crime. Tell me again how gang violence is related to the proximity of a BGR?

      • LMatt_in_NE

        So, having an apple store, BGR and sushi + low income housing a couple blocks away = CRIME CRIME CRIME

        Got it. I never understand how being poor works, apparently. Thanks for the clarification.

    • SomePeopleOnThisSiteSheesh

      Mostly agree, but High Velocity is pretty good! Expensive (as is to be expected from a hotel bar), but good food, good beer selection, friendly bartenders and lot of space.

  • anon

    It’s about time!!! I’d love more retail in my neighborhood….excited to see what is planned.

  • Those façades dearly need an overhaul: I’m eager to see that barren stretch retrofitted with something that more readily engages at the street level. The Convention Center looks great from a distance as a singular building, but functions terribly when it comes to mixing in with the neighborhood. Looking forward to anything: more engaging context-sensitive storefronts, artwork, trees… just give Aniekan Udofia an entire blockface to work with.

    I also wouldn’t mind seeing on-street parking taken away between L and N, giving this space over to addressing the narrow sidewalks on the west side as well as opening up room for sidewalk seating — further helping bring those storefronts into the community. New public parking is coming online with the new buildings along 9th, providing plenty of supply for short-term parking — this public ROW is better used for boosting the retail viability of this area & actually making it a place people would want to go.

    • Duponter

      Agreed! Trees would definitely help. It’s just concrete everywhere otherwise.

    • flowerson11th

      Ooh yes I would love trees! That is a great idea!

  • Part of why these spaces have been vacant is because they have been asking SO much per square foot for them…

    • Boomer

      It’s so obnoxious. There has got to be a way for DC to punish landlords who are content to let their retail spaces sit unused for years while they wait to shoot the moon on a lease.

      • Anonymous

        Get rid of bullet loans. The big landlords just pay interest every month, no principle. Then they refinance into another 10 year bullet loan or sell on the project at a big profit. This is why CRE is so profitable. With record low interest rates, there’s no big hurry to fill the space.
        Lots of other landlords in DC are just sitting on inherited property. No mortgage to pay? No big hurry to fill the empty commercial space.

        • Eponymous

          Agree with all of this. Petworth is particularly bad when it comes to this phenomenon. I know that there are a lot of entrepreneurial people who would like to start small community-serving retail businesses (bakeries, cafes, etc.) but they can’t find affordable space. So after these places sit vacant for a few years we eventually end up with a bunch of chains. Not great for the ambience of the city, not great for the local economy.

      • SomePeopleOnThisSiteSheesh

        Hey, how dare you ask them to adjust the valuation they expect to get when they flip the property to another PE fund/REIT!

  • mpeterson78

    Speaking of the convention center, something I’ve always wondered about: What are those metal “rails” in the ground all around the border of the convention center, criss crossing the surrounding streets, running through the sidewalks, etc? I thought they were maybe some kind of track to install security barriers if need be but a) I’ve never seen that happen and b) the layout seems odd

  • tom

    File this under “believe it when I see it.”

  • flowerson11th

    This makes me so so so excited! I hope for a salt and sundry, a cork market/former seasonal pantry market type of thing, and a bookstore of some kind. Fingers crossed!

  • Thought

    And 7 years later DC USA remains largely vacant.

    • Dan

      That’s simply not true; DC USA is over 85% leased (mostly filled by the big boxes, but still). I don’t disagree that the streetfront retail needs work, but it’s far from “largely vacant”.

  • tom12hours

    If they really want to make 9th street an attractive area for restaurants and retail, they should really add some bike lanes (and perhaps some parklets) to make the streetscape more attractive to people. That area is a depressing, empty wasteland of concrete with no pedestrians or cyclists.

    11th street in Columbia Heights has tons of foot traffic and desirable venues, so it would definitely be worth emulating.

    • JohnH

      I don’t think it has anything to do with the reasons you’re giving – many of the buildings on the west of 9th are not fully developed or at all developed – and the east side of it sits empty with the convention center. There’s no people walking/biking because of there’s not much to go to. I believe one stretch of empty buildings north of the Marriott Marquis is set to become another Marriott brand hotel. The problem is the retail in the convention center cannot survive just on convention center traffic (and the lease prices are absurd) – and there’s not a lot of new (larger scale) residential units. I mean, heck look at the City Market at O – it’s on top of 2 big apartment buildings and they’ve been slow to develop. But they will only rent those units to well-established brands and there’s not a lot of brands that will pay those prices without business/residential traffic throughout a day. There’s no way Dolcezza is making that much money in that location – but it’s only one aspect of their company (they sell wholesale to grocery stores/restaurants, food truck, catering, etc.).

      • JohnH

        Oops sorry Dolci

      • Lisa

        The great long term goal for those of us invested here, and as even StreetSense notes, is that there be a connection both psychologically and actually between U Street and NY Ave/CityCenter. Each little piece that gets developed helps but there are too many blank spots for any continuity. This convention center side has long been one of the problems. As is the current CityMarket at O 9th St East side. 7th is proving itself incapable of sustaining a flow north/south because of their 3 or 4 really inhospitable blocks and the attendant crime. 9th could establish and own the N/S path between NY and RI/Q St but it is only slowly being considered much less realized..

  • Lisa

    It sounds great but it’s hard to get excited. Hopeful yes but these things have been sitting vacant so long and it’s not because of streetscape or marketing or a lack of ‘artistic elements’. The CC only put retail in because of neighborhood insistence way back when and never really wanted tenants, even when they were advertised. When the bakery finally left they were hundreds of thousands in arrears that’s how little the CC cared. So now they’re going to throw money at it for street and facade ‘improvements’ when that was never the problem. This is an Events DC problem and unless they truly change their m.o. this is more smoke-blowing and the spaces will stay vacant though the street may look better.

    • mmm

      YES! The convention center does not believe that they are in the retail business and until something changes on that front (perhaps this is it. I have no idea.), nothing will be able to succeed in those spaces.

      And whoever is complaining about the landlord/rents, Events DC basically is the DC government. And they could care less about that retail space.

      • DK

        Events DC is not basically the DC Govt. I have worked for all of the management companies that have run DC’s convention centers since 1987 and never once has my paycheck come from the DC govt.

  • DogMama23

    “this new partnership will activate retail spaces”

    Hee. Wonder Lease Powers, activate! The area definitely needs more retail, but since Marriott is about to start yet another humongous construction project that will likely keep the west half of 9th Street blocked for a while, not sure if retailers will be willing to take a chance on this space.


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