How The Wharf Is Carefully Curating Its Retail
In many ways, The Wharf will be a development unlike we’ve ever seen in DC. Madison Marquette, behind senior development director Ed De Avila and managing director Peter Cole, along with partner PN Hoffman, is working to ensure the retail will be just as groundbreaking as the rest of the project.
About 50% of the 215k SF of retail in The Wharf’s massive Phase 1 has been leased, Ed told Bisnow at ICSC RECon last month. Restaurants have been the only retail announced in the mega-project—scheduled to open next year—thus far, but that’s for good reason.
“We have to inspire our patrons, surprising them with new-to-the-market retailers,” Ed says. “We’re not interested in delivering projects already in the marketplace.”
Ed and Peter haven't signed the project's first soft goods retailer yet, but they tell us it will be a unique, "game-changing retail concept," and will stitch together well with the mix of tenants in place, including restaurants from chefs Fabio Trabocchi and Mike Isabella, and music and gathering holes that will range from a jazz club to an Irish pub.
Perhaps most importantly, it will be social.
Social connectivity is the common thread that has determined all of The Wharf’s public spaces, and will be at the heart of any retail concept signed.
“We really believe in establishing a culture and a character on Day 1,” Peter says. “People will come to The Wharf for every reason and for no reason at all.”
Finding what creates that in an authentic way is why Madison Marquette invested in a 25k SF market in the heart of Northern California wine country called Oxbow Public Market. Oxbow has quickly become the social center of Napa Valley.
Considering The Wharf will include a 35k SF market district with street food and fresh vendors, Peter says the “best in class” Oxbow will help inform how to bring the same authenticity and success to Southwest DC.
“We invested in Oxbow to better understand the evolution of the market,” Ed says. “We’re fighting to stay away from the sameness of market halls.”
Avoiding sameness and building authenticity have been mantras of PN Hoffman CEO Monty Hoffman, leading the Hoffman-Madison Waterfront development team, which is why a dozen architectural firms were brought in to design the project.
That's why there have been no soft-goods deals as of yet. Food and beverage were always going to lead the leasing of the ground floor, according to Ed and Peter.
"It would be easy to lease the whole project," Peter says. "But we have to make sure to get the right variety in price point and experience."
"It has to be real and authentic," Ed adds. "The retail story at The Wharf has yet to be written."