Hines, lead developer of CityCenterDC, has been mum on whether or not it has succeeded in attracting Apple to open a store the project, the first phase of which is under construction and due to be largely completed by October.
Keen observers of the construction, however — particularly those with some retail know-how — have taken note of the extremely large and prominent retail space being constructed on the north face of one of the two CityCenter office buildings.
The storefront takes up the entire side of the building and faces what will be a triangular bow-tie park along New York Avenue, meaning whatever opens there won’t have another building obstructing views.
Apple isn’t talking either. “We haven’t made any announcements about a store in Washington” said spokeswoman Amy Bessette.
The thinking, however, is that either Hines has locked up Apple or feels good enough about the possibility that it was willing to go ahead with carving out a prominent space. Retail brokers offering storefronts nearby have already begun plotting how to take advantage of the huge foot traffic that an Apple store is likely to bring to the intersection.
Apple is so good at attracting shoppers to its stores that some cities and landlords often offer them heavily discounted or even free rent, as the company received for five years when it agreed to open in downtown Salt Lake City. Apple already has stores in Georgetown, Bethesda, Clarendon, Pentagon City, Tysons Corner, Reston and Fairfax.
Part of the attraction for cities is the stores’ design, which famously receive the same Steve Jobs-like obsession detail as the company’s products. What might the D.C. store look like?
This is the store Apple opened in 2011 in Grand Central Station:
Grand Central has a new retail mix that some think resembles the mix CityCenter is working toward. But the Grand Central Apple is uniquely built to fit a historic building, so probably not likely to resemble what gets built in the glass-encased CityCenter building.
Let’s consider some examples of Apple storefronts that might more closely resemble what could come to CityCenter. Here’s one in San Francisco with a glass facade:
Here’s a store in Shanghai, on street level and with extremely high ceilings:
Here’s a two-story, street level Apple store in Munich
Howard Riker, Hines vice president for development, isn’t saying whether Apple has committed or not but he said retailers have signed letters of intent or leases for about 30 percent of the 190,000 square feet of retail the project will have. All six buildings will have retail on all sides, which could again make downtown D.C. a regional shopping destination.
Particularly with an enormous Apple store in the center.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz