Vincent Gray and Rushern Baker in Las Vegas, courting retailers

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) are in Las Vegas for meetings with retailers at the annual convention of the International Council of Shopping Centers at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The convention happens annually and the District and Prince George’s often send official staff to the convention to help coax retailers into coming their way, sometimes by way of incentives. 

(Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post)
(Photo by Michael Williamson/The Washington Post)

For Baker, this year’s convention is a chance to discuss the coming MGM casino and resort at National Harbor in the gambling behemoth’s backyard. The Peterson Cos., developers of National Harbor, is a fixture at ICSC and likes to make fireworks there, announcing three years ago during the event that it would open a Tanger Outlet Center.

Baker will be looking to leverage not only the MGM project and the Tanger outlets but the county’s first Whole Foods. Mel Franklin, chair of the Prince George’s County Council, is also attending.

“Hopefully since the county has been on the radar with these big projects and what-not, this will be the best ICSC that the county has really ever gone to,” said Baker spokesman Scott Peterson (no relation to the developers).

Scott Peterson said the success of Tanger ought to demonstrate the un-met need for shopping in the county. “There’s an easy story to tell because there is such a demand and a need,” he said.

The District still has one of the largest booths of any government, state or city, at the convention. Council members including Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Vincent Orange (D-at large) are in attendance. 

There are always new concepts and companies to court. According to a schedule prepared for the mayor and members of the council by the D.C. Economic Partnership, the District’s marketing and business development arm, here are some of the more interesting retailers set to meet with D.C. officials:

– Chillbox Frozen Yogurt and Juicy Spoons — The former is located mostly in Europe at this point and describes itself as “the largest Greek Frozen Yogurt chain of stores around the world.” Here is an ad (in Greek):

– Bass Pro Shop — The closest locations to D.C. are in Hanover, Md. and Ashland, Va. Hecht’s Warehouse on New York Avenue, the Navy Yard Car Barn and Shaw (Parcel 42) are listed as possible locations.

– Books-A-Million — A book store expanding? The schedule calls for discussions of stores downtown or in Chevy Chase Pavilion.

– Chipotle — The chain that made big business out of fast-casual burritos has been expanding quickly in the area and city officials are scheduled to pitch the chain on sites east of the Anacostia River.

Gray has some big ticket land deals that will require retail. He and members of the council were scheduled to receive an update on the Walter Reed project from developer Urban Atlantic Sunday. Home Depot, Wegman’s, Safeway, Giant, Costco and other retailers also have meetings scheduled to discuss Walter Reed.

Another top priority for Gray will be Skyland Shopping Center, where Wal-Mart is expected to sign a lease shortly. Gray and Wal-Mart are scheduled to meet Monday afternoon. Other priorities are finding stores for Hecht’s warehouse, on New York Avenue, Shops at Dakota Crossing, Skyland Shopping Center, the Wharf (Southwest Waterfront) Capitol Gateway and ART Place at Fort Totten, a project of the Cafritz Foundation on South Dakota Avenue off of Riggs Road in Northeast.

It’s a big year for Capitol Rivefront, the business improvement district that oversees the area around Nationals Park. The neighborhood now enjoys a handful of new restaurants, a Harris Teeter is under construction and Whole Foods is on its way. Now the neighborhood has a chance to land bigger stores like Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Sports Authority — the sort of retail that wound up in the center of Columbia Heights with the DC USA project at 14th and Irving streets.

Of course, there are parties as well. This year, the schedule included three events Sunday night at the Palazzo Hotel: a “We Choose DC Reception” and an invitation-only dinner by the law firm Reed Smith. On Sunday night, Prince George’s County was also scheduled to host a reception at the Palazzo Hotel pool.

Arelis Hernandez and Mike DeBonis contributed.

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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