Retailers ready to dock at National Harbor


SimplySoles employee Austin Thomas adjusts a top at the store in National Harbor. Simply Soles is part of the 70 percent of local and regional retailers that comprise the tenant list at the Oxon Hill development. (Jeffrey MacMillan/For Capital Business)
November 13, 2011

A fleet of new stores are set to dock at National Harbor in the coming months, bringing an eclectic mix of retail to the Potomac River development.

By the end of this month, House of Jon Lei Atelier bridal salon, bath and body boutique Scented Organic Artisan Pure and chicken restaurant Nando’s Peri-Periall are to officially open. Next month, women’s boutique Periwinkle and Dandelion Patch stationary store are to join the line up, followed by a Pinkberry and hotdog house ChiDogO’s.

And that’s just this year. Another round of stores and restaurants are scheduled to open at the harbor in 2012, including seafood bistro Redeye Grill slated to open at the end of the year. By then, roughly 85 percent of the retail offered at the complex will be occupied.

“We muscled through the worst of the economic slump, when leasing space was most challenging,” said Marc Menick, vice president of leasing at the Peterson Cos., the Fairfax-based developer of the 350-acre site. “Demand for space has returned as evidence by these deals.”

In the three years since opening National Harbor, the developer has added a slew of new offerings to the $4 billion waterfront complex of stores, condominiums, hotels and restaurants near Oxon Hill.

News of the latest line up arrives nearly seven months after the developer announced plans to open a Tanger Factory Outlet Center at the harbor in 2013. The 350,000-square- foot, $100 million mall is to have 80 name-brand outlet stores. No retailers have been announced, but Tanger is known for housing the likes of J. Crew, Cole Haan and Coach at its 34 outlets across the country.

Though Prince George’s County residents have long bemoaned the dearth of retail options, Menick said the Peterson Cos. is being very careful not to replicate a traditional mall at National Harbor. Roughly 70 percent of the retailers at the waterfront complex are local or regional.

“You get an end product that is unique and interesting, when you lease a property this way,” Menick said. “And we’ve been able to find some of the best local entrepreneurs to achieve that goal.”

Menick pointed to Periwinkle as an example. Based in Alexandria, with another location in Arlington, the store carries a selection of classic women’s wear by such designers as Shoshanna and Tracy Reese. Owner Elizabeth Mason started the store six years ago and jumped at the chance to add her first location outside of Virginia.

“The space was priced reasonably and the team was easy to work with,” she said. “It’s great that they’re not just tapping into the big chains. So much shopping can be done online, so you have to offer something to get people into the stores.”

Menick would not discuss lease rates at the Harbor, other than to say that it is still “a tenant’s market,” just not to the extent of a year or two ago.

“Partnering with so many entrepreneurs that are starting or slowly expanding their business, we have to be flexible with them,” he said. “We’re in business trying to get the best rents we can, but in this environment the right mix is paramount to anything else.”

Danielle Douglas covers the banking industry for The Washington Post.
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