The Connecticut Connection is more than a new downtown Washington mall with a snappy name. Situated at the mouth of the Farragut Square Metro subway station, the tiny mall is probably one of the most expensive corners in town.
In a city where few heads turn anymore at high real estate prices, first floor shops in the Connection mall are leasing between $50 and $60 a square foot. For instance, Theodore Nye jewelers, which moved in slightly more than a month ago, is reported to be paying $75 a square foot for the 600 square-foot store, lavish even for Washington.
"Our corner is supposed to be that kind of a corner," said Nye store manager Eve Thalis. But she would not reveal the leasing price. To do so would be in bad taste, she said.
"It's all relative," said Stuart Miller, a vice president of Miller Management, which manages and developed the downtown mall. "If you look at it on a per square foot basis, yes, it's expensive."
When asked if the Nye shop is on the most expensive spot in town, Miller replied, "I would probably say you're right." Miller would only say that the store is leased for more than $55 a square foot although sources estimated about $75.
Despite the high price of that location, Miller said there is a list of stores waiting to move in. All of the stores in the nearly-year-old mall, however, are not filled.
Miller said some of the businesses willing to pay the $50 to $60 a square foot rent on the mall's first floor are not the type of business he is looking for. He prefers a perfume shop, a tobacconist, a camera shop or a shoe store for the second floor of the four-level mall.
Also, the shops average about 300 square feet in size which is relatively small for downtown stores, Miller said. The first floor has seven shops open and three vacancies and two of five shops on the second floor are occupied, Miller said.
Besides being new, "people are waiting to see what traffic the mall will generate," Miller said.
Business in Nye's first month of operation at the mall has been "better than expected," Thalis said.
"People and business are moving back to the city," said Mary Miller, regional supervisor for the August Max women's clothing store on the mall's second floor. "Expensive? No, it's not a question of expense as much as traffic a location like this can generate."
Miller said that more people browse through the store during lunchtime than frequent their White Flint Mall location. "This particular location is the future of what's going to happen to shopping."
In comparison, however, the Connecticut Connection is not that much more expensive than other retail space in the area. Miller said that although some grocery store space, for instance, in upper northwest might go for $1.50 to $2 a square foot, most of the retail space on Connecticut Avenue between K and M streets costs between $50 and $70 a square foot.
"That's Washington," Miller added. "People base it on what they can generate out of that store." For those kind of leasing prices, a store should generate about $400 a square foot and be a success, Miller said.
But Miller, Thalis and August Max's Mary Miller said that the traffic generated from the adjoining 10-story office building, the Mayflower hotel down the street, the more than 60,000 secretaries, lawyers and other business people in the surrounding area as well as 30,000 Metro subway riders a day, is worth the price.