October 23, 2015

What You Need to Know
About the DC Retail Market

While the multifamily and office markets are both making plenty of noise, no market in DC has been as consistently excellent over the past handful of years than retail and food. That's why we're excited to present our DC Restaurant and Retail event on Oct. 27 at the historic Howard Theatre.

Why is DC retail surging so strongly? “You're seeing the resurgence of a market that had never existed in the past,” Dochter & Alexander Retail Advisors co-founder Dave Dochter tells Bisnow. We snapped Dave, who's a panelist next week, and his co-founder, Matt Alexander, at their Penn Quarter office this month. They started their retail brokerage shop in March and have been riding on the wave of the retail boom ever since. While retail has always been prevalent in downtown DC, it's starting to spread in importance to emerging markets. It's also being taken a lot more seriously by building owners. “Everybody is realizing how important the base of your building is,” Dave says. "The look of it, the feel of it, and how accretive it is to the NOI in the rest of your building."

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Dave says NoMa is the strongest up-and-coming retail market in DC. He helped sign the REI flagship store that will anchor Uline Arena when it opens next year. There are heaps of developments coming on line to an area that is starved for retail. But Dave says DC has “opportunities everywhere you look.” Retailers can come in on the ground floor in NoMa and at Capitol Riverfront, but areas like Columbia Heights, Shaw and Georgia Avenue all present opportunities that just weren't there 10 years ago.

Dave helped sign a handful of the luxury tenants that have become a staple of CityCenter DC, said Hines director Amy Rice, also a panelist next week (here she is skiing in Switzerland. Yes, we're jealous). CityCenter has become the entrance point for retailers previously untouchable to DC. Amy says they didn't go after luxury retailers: Hermes, Louis Vuitton and others went after them. Being blocks from the White House, Verizon Center and the best restaurants in town—plus having 200k SF of retail with which to develop a luxury co-tenancy—made sense for the highest-end shopping in the District to date. "We would never be able to compete with Tysons Corner on a square-footage basis," Amy says. "But they don't have the White House five blocks away." If you take the old biases away and look at the pure demographics: a highly educated workforce, the highest median income in the country, increasing density and a population that travels, “DC is one of the, if not the, best markets in the country," Dave says.

Also speaking for us next week is Vornado's regional director of retail, Wright Sigmund, who has done well injecting new life and energy into traditionally stuffy Crystal City. He recently replaced Corner Bakery, a well-performing national chain, with Sweetgreen and Taylor Gourmet, two local companies with rabid followings and fresh choices. “There are a lot of trends toward localization,” Wright told us yesterday. “People want things that are authentic and real that they can have a connection with.” Perhaps nothing has galvanized both the retail and office sectors of Crystal City like TechShop, the maker space that has driven startups to locate in Northern Virginia's incubator/co-working/accelerator capital. It replaced a vacant Safeway and it could be a retail space we look back on in 10 years as a distinct trendsetter.

The biggest trend in DC retail right now, however, is the proliferation of restaurants. A new one opens up every day, and Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington president Kathy Hollinger (snapped at the RAMMYs with Events DC's Greg O'Dell) will be on hand to discuss the crazy boom, too. To learn more, please join us for our DC Restaurant and Retail event on Oct. 27 at the historic Howard Theatre. Sign up here

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