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Golden Triangle is having to work harder for retail tenants

This Golden Triangle storefront use to be home to Filene's Basement. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR CAPITAL BUSINESS)

The Golden Triangle — the downtown D.C. neighborhood wedged roughly between Farragut Square, Washington Circle and Dupont Circle — is having to work harder for attention, and tenants, these days.

Upcoming multi-use developments such as CityCenterDC, also in downtown, and The Yards, in Southeast Washington, have ratcheted up competition for higher-end retailers.

That can increase the scrutiny on high-profile vacancies along Connecticut Avenue NW, at the former sites of clothing stores Filene’s Basement and Talbots — the latter of which has been empty for a year and half.

“It’s been a long time — we’re anxiously awaiting a new tenant,” said Steve Solomon, managing director of leasing for Blake Real Estate, the brokerage firm for the former Talbots site at 1122 Connecticut Ave. NW. “The challenge has been finding a good-quality, financially-stable tenant. We’re not going to lease it just for the purpose of leasing it.”

Recent news that Nordstrom Rack, which sells discounted designer clothing and accessories, would be taking over the former Borders site at 1800 L St. NW, has reenergized the discussion about the neighborhood’s future.

This vacant property on Connecticut Ave. was previously occupied by women’s clothing retailer Talbots. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR CAPITAL BUSINESS)

Leona Agouridis, the executive director of the business improvement district, said about 90,000 people work in the Golden Triangle, making it a highly-frequented part of the District.

“I think the city is growing a lot, and there’s something to be said about the buying power of all the people who live and work here,” she said. “I think our core group of shoppers is going to be the people who work here every day. They’re educated. They’re professional. They’re already here. Now it’s just, ‘How do we leverage that?’ ”

That core group includes law firm giant Arent Fox, which recently moved into new space at Connecticut Avenue and K streets NW, staying put in the district.

And the neighborhood has welcomed a series of new restaurants in recent months: Edgar Bar + Kitchen , Protein Bar and the Russian chain Mari Vanna. STK Steakhouse is slated to open on 1250 Connecticut Ave. NW, later this year.

The trouble, though, is finding retailers for larger spaces, such as the three-story space on the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Desales Street NW that Filene’s Basement vacated last year.

“I think, in general, big-box stores aren’t around anymore,” Agouridis said. “The space is too small for a department store, but too big for anything else, so it’s tough.”

Agouridis said the most recent focus is pursuing more apparel stores to join the likes of Burberry, Thomas Pink, Charles Tyrwhitt and others.

“Connecticut Avenue is our spine — that’s where everything sort of radiates from — but we can’t just focus on one or two locations. We have to sell the whole [district].”

Abha Bhattarai covers local retail, hospitality and banking for The Washington Post. She has previously written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.



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