Eataly closes in on District location

Eataly, the Italian-themed culinary concept by chef Mario Batali, has engaged brokerage firm CBRE in a local real estate search and narrowed its options to open a Washington version of the New York City marketplace-and-restaurant hub to three or four locations.

In September, Batali expressed concerns to the Post about whether he could find enough space for at least 30,000 square feet for restaurants, retail and markets, and another 8,000 square feet or more for a rooftop beer garden like the one Eataly has in New York.

Since then, the search has quickly progressed, according to Michael R. Zacharia, senior vice president of retail services for CBRE, who is leading the search for Eataly in Washington. Zacharia said he has been looking for 60,000 square feet for Eataly and has narrowed the search to “three or four locations.” All the sites are in the District.

He also said developers were battling hand over fist to attract the concept to their building under the strategy that if their building is considered a go-to place because Eataly is there, it will prompt office users to pay higher rents.

“The most in-demand concept that I have ever seen is Eataly,” said Zacharia, who represents more than 50 retailers presently. “I’ve never seen developers clamor for anything like Eataly.”

That doesn’t mean the search is easy. Eataly wants an area that attracts brisk foot traffic from both locals and tourists. And it would like high ceilings, to help create a place that feels like an escape.

“They want this to be a place where you can come in and kind of get lost in it,” Zacharia said.

If Eataly does open in the District, it will continue the recent trend of New York restaurants expanding in the Washington area, including Carmine’s, Bobby’s Burger Palace, Shake Shack and P.J. Clarke’s — another Zacharia client.

Eataly is also looking for locations in Chicago and Los Angeles, also through CBRE, but Zacharia said the Washington location has a chance to open first because of its proximity to the flagship Eataly. He said he expects a decision in the next 60 days.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz

Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.

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