Developers of CityCenter DC are only a few weeks from announcing an operator for the hotel that will anchor the second phase of that project, according to Howard Riker, vice president of development at Hines.

Construction of the first phase of CityCenter, featuring offices, apartments and condominiums, is already underway, with scheduled completion in 2014. A second phase, for a section of land along New York Avenue NW, is slated to include large format retail and a 350- to 400-room hotel. Construction should begin in in the first half of 2013 and be complete in 2015.

The project is the cream of the crop of D.C. projects featured at RECon, with retail lining the ground floor of all six of the buildings in the first phase.

Riker, along with the firm Williams Jackson Ewing, has been marketing the site for years — helping to distinguish it from destinations like Georgetown and Tysons Corner — and he says they are now at the point where they can sign letters of intent.

The first tenants Hines signs are likely to tell a lot about the overall retail concept for the project; even if rental rates have to take a backseat initially, Riker says the company will get the retailers it wants to lead the project.

“We have a lot of space to lease here, so we will be active in downtown retail for a long time,” he said. The important thing in negotiating rents with a bevy of different retailers, he said, “is to structure the economics in a way so it’s in sync with what they can do in terms of business.”

What large retailers could Hines pair with the hotel? Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom have long been discussed for the site, but Riker said Hines is looking to bring more than just one or two large departments stores by attracting boutiques and co-locating multiple concepts.