Can Van Ness successfully support more retail and restaurants? According to a new retail viability study for the area, it most certainly can.
“This retail study clearly demonstrates what we believed about the Van Ness corridor when we purchased 4250 Connecticut – that it has the potential to be a dynamic and vibrant area and truly a place to go to,” Fred Underwood of Bernstein Management Company said in a statement.
Bernstein Management, the University of the District of Columbia and Van Ness Main Street commissioned the HR&A Advisors study last fall. The results, announced March 12, reveal $457.8 million in “total spending potential” from workers, students, hotel guests and the 14,600 residents within walking distance of the Van Ness commercial strip between Van Ness and Albemarle Streets.
Most of that spending potential is leaving the neighborhood. The study refers to the difference between spending potential and actual sales in Van Ness as a “retail gap.” The largest gaps are in grocery, general merchandise, clothing, and health and personal care. The study also finds considerable unmet demand for full-service and fast-casual restaurants, building materials, home furnishings, and electronics and appliances.
Van Ness has 130,000 square feet of retail space, of which 30,000 is vacant. The bulk of this space is at Bernstein-owned 4250 Connecticut, UDC’s 4340 Connecticut and the former Walgreen’s at 4225 Connecticut.
What could help fill the retail gap – and the physical retail space? The HR&A study recommends “distinctive local shops and services,” operating small- to medium-sized stores and serving a variety of price points. The types of tenants it believes would be successful at 4250 and 4340 Connecticut include:
Suggested retailers for the former Walgreen’s include a neighborhood café/coffee shop, hardware, fitness center and international food market. The study also suggests using some of the space for an art gallery and/or performances.
Bernstein and UDC are using the study in their search for retail tenants, and Van Ness Main Street is making it available to other property owners. UDC believes the study will assist in recruiting retailers – and students.
“Having a vibrant retail corridor is critical to UDC meeting its student success goals,” UDC Chief Operating Officer Troy A. LeMaile-Stovall said in a statement. “[A] vibrant Van Ness creates a larger sense of community for our students, faculty and staff and allows them to stay near the campus for longer periods of time for employment opportunities.”
Gary Malasky, the vice president of Van Ness Main Street, said the study sets out a template for “creating a desirable, walkable urban retail district.”
“If all the property owners follow the concepts set out in the study,” Malasky said, “the resulting district will be very popular with customers and will provide very popular returns for property owners.”
Edited to correct reference to “first-ever” retail viability study. Streetsense collected similar data for a 2013 study.