By  on October 16, 2007

Luxury is the name of the game in an area with high household incomes and a taste for style.

WASHINGTON — The renaissance of the retail enclave straddling the border of Washington and Chevy Chase, Md., is thriving as new developments lure specialty retailers and customers.

The shopping area, which has about 1 million square feet of space, fashions itself as the Rodeo Drive of the East Coast and has been undergoing a major image overhaul for two years.

Anchored on one end by Saks Fifth Avenue, which opened in 1960, and on the other by Neiman Marcus, which bowed in 1978, the shopping district reached a new level of exclusivity when The Collection at Chevy Chase opened in October 2005, bringing to the area for the first time luxury retailers such as Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Barneys Co-op, Cartier, MaxMara and Polo Ralph Lauren.

The Collection's 100,000 square feet of retail space, spanning two buildings, and another 100,000 square feet of "neighborhood" retail space became an instant draw for Washingtonians who often traveled to New York to shop because of the dearth of designer options in the metropolitan area.

"The ladies of Washington love to travel, whether it's to Miami or Paris, and when they can't get products they want here they go out of the market," said Paige Bishop of Bishop Emory, a consultant to The Chevy Chase Land Co., which owns and manages The Collection at Chevy Chase. "Now they are getting much more variety as far as the items they are choosing from."

That has translated into strong sales for the luxury stores, said Michele Cornwell, senior vice president of Chevy Chase Land Co. The company projected sales of $700 to $2,500 per square foot for the high-end luxury retailers in the Collection when it opened.

"Retailers told us they always look for three things in one place — tourism, high-end residential and dense office space," Cornwell said, noting that the Collection provided all three components.

Retailers continued to be lured to the area by an affluent population with an annual average income of $150,000, along with 19,000 daily commuters on the Metro subway system, 29,000 vehicles on Wisconsin Avenue and 24,700 vehicles on Western Avenue, according to the Ad Agency, a marketing research, advertising design and public relations firm representing several of the developments.

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