By  on April 6, 2007

WASHINGTON — Mayor Adrian Fenty launched a $270,000 study Thursday to determine how the District of Columbia can spur retail development and capture the more than $1 billion residents spend on goods and services outside the city limits.

Fashion is expected to be an important part of the retail revitalization.

"The District has great retail potential, but a lot of the time, retailers don't understand that potential," said Fenty, speaking at a press conference held at the future site of the Meridian Restaurant on Georgia Avenue in northwest Washington. Con­sidered an example of the transformation city officials hope to see elsewhere, the restaurant will occupy the former site of Ibex, a nightclub that was closed after a police officer was shot there in the Nineties.

Fenty hopes to promote Washington's retail potential and draw new stores to the city while supporting local shops.

"We need to have this plan so that we can fulfill our destiny to become a world-class city," said Fenty, noting the perception of the District has changed for the better in recent years.

Washington is already home to one of the country's top retail streetscapes in the tony Georgetown area, with stores such as Anthropologie, Intermix and Neiman Marcus' Cusp.

Harriet Tregoning, director of the city's Office of Planning, said the study, which will look at the whole city with special attention to 20 specific areas, would help determine what was needed to support development and keep residents from heading out of town to shop. Tregoning said fashion will be a "very significant" part of the initiative.

The city will look into a number of ways to spur development, including tweaks to traffic patterns, wider sidewalks and financial incentives.

"We're already starting to see places where fashionistas can start to go, on 14th Street and on U Street," said Tregoning. "We have some fabulous independent clothing retailers throughout the city, but not the big retail shopping districts that we'd like to have in a lot of parts, including some of the high-end fashion retailers."

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