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This Morning at the Ritz

Washington, D.C. Retail

DC's ongoing population wave (and the hot demographics that come with it) will always be a good thing for retailers and landlords. But as we heard this morning at our 4th annual DC Retail Real Estate Summit, attracting and keeping that customer base is a challenge.

Before 400 at the Ritz-Carlton, Vornado/Charles E. Smith retail director Wright Sigmund reported that attracting new folks as well as natives requires creating authenticity in retail spaces, which means adding concepts that aren't "just the biggest national anchor who can pay the most rent." And sometimes new concepts can revitalize long vacant spots—Wright says Vornado recently filled the long-empty Crystal City Safeway space with TechShop, a creative workshop and fabrication studio. (Welding bugs into hotel room furniture has never been easier.)

We were proud to present our latest Bizzy award to Clyde's Restaurant Group CEO John Laytham (second from left), who this year celebrates his 50th anniversary with the company, dating back to his first job as a dishwasher at the M Street Clyde's. John (snapped with Bisnow prez Doug Anderson, wife Ginger Laytham, and Clyde's chairman Sally Davidson) says the keys to running an empire that now includes Old Ebbitt Grill and the Hamilton is being willing to change, setting company standards, and focusing on employee development.

Douglas Development scion Norman Jemal (right, with Roadside Development's Jeff Edelstein) says that in mixed-use projects, successful retail can reward landlords with higher rents and occupancy for other uses like office and residential. "Great retail differentiates yourself," Norman says. Jeff points out that typically suburban retailers wanting to get into the urban space (like Giant at his firm's CityMarket at O project in Shaw) have to think about stepping outside their comfort zones.

DC Economic Partnership chief Keith Sellars (with Holland & Knight's Tara Scanlon) perked up the ears of developers when he reported that the Deputy Mayor's office will be announcing a new initiative along Georgia Avenue next Wednesday. He also says that areas on the periphery of traditional retail corridors like Columbia Heights and 14th Street are ones to watch, since some retailers might be priced out of the more established neighborhoods.

But there's no shortage of spots for retailers to check out around these parts: according to Tara, there are 50 prime retail corridors in the region. (Convenient, since we like to shop with a different US state in mind each time.) Stay tuned for more retail summit coverage tomorrow.