LEESBURG

Government Contractors Unite

With government contract work a staple of the Washington area economy, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce has created the Northern Virginia Government Contractors Council to provide a new forum for lobbying and business development.

The chamber said it hopes to provide a variety of highly focused programs of interest to its 400 corporate members who do contract work for federal, state and local government agencies, including a speaker series with government contracting officials.

With the demise of numerous technology and telecommunications firms, many Northern Virginia companies have altered their businesses to seek government contracts, especially as the government focuses on homeland security and anti-terrorism efforts.

The new council is being led by Patrick Herrity, chief financial officer of Dimensions International Inc., and Richard Duvall, executive partner for the Holland & Knight law firm.

-- Kenneth Bredemeier

BETHESDA

New Restaurants Planned at Metro

Meridian Group of Bethesda and its partners, Blackstone Real Estate Advisors of New York, plan to renovate and turn the nearly 19,000-square-foot food court at 3 Bethesda Metro Center into a self-service-style restaurant that Soho Cafe and Market of Washington would operate.

Merchants have gradually left the food court in the past few months as their leases have expired, Meridian management officials said.

In replacing the existing food court, which looks similar to those found in most suburban malls, Soho will provide a deli featuring food stations that serve hot and cold entrees, salads and pizza. It also will have a small convenience store. The concept is similar to Soho's restaurants in downtown Washington.

The other half of the existing food court would become a "white tablecloth, Cafe Asia concept," Meridian officials said. Also run by Soho, it will be open for lunch and dinner and will have a bar.

The area outside the food court will have new landscaping, fountains and outdoor seating covered with a trellis.

Construction is to start soon and will be finished within the next year.

"It's going to be an exciting new use with a great new tenant," said David Cheek, president of Meridian Group. "Soho's food concept is one that is popular and attracts people from support staff to CEOs and law partners."

Meridian said it was spending about $10 million on the food court and lobby renovations.

The new look comes as Bethesda has undergone changes in the last few years, with newer restaurants along Bethesda Row, only a few blocks from Meridian's property. As Bethesda has aged, developers have renovated buildings and made retail areas more inviting to pedestrians with wider sidewalks and landscaping.

"We bought [the property] three years ago, and it's now time to upgrade it," Cheek said. "It's roughly 20 years old."

But the closing of the existing food court is a disappointment to Deok Su Kim, of Kim's Sushi Garden, and some other vendors there. His was the last food stand in the building.

"I've lost a lot of money here after putting in some $80,000 into this place," said Kim. He took a job at a restaurant in Gaithersburg, where he lives, to supplement his family's income.

"I didn't want to leave there," he said.

-- Dana Hedgpeth

Columbia

Realty Firm Signs Major Deals

The real estate firm Manekin LLC, recently announced deals to manage 422,770 square feet of space in Maryland and Northern Virginia. The space includes shopping centers in Mount Airy and Columbia and two industrial buildings for Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Lab in Laurel.

"We always appreciate the opportunity to grow with our valued clients, and several of these new assignments represent growth from existing clients," Manekin's director of property management, Barbara Alden, said in a statement.

Manekin is constructing 3.5 million square feet of space in Maryland.

-- Krissah Williams