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D.C. Council member Vincent Orange has consistently attended the International Council of Shopping Centers Conference in Las Vegas. (Courtesy Photo/orangeatlarge.com)

The mayor of the District and seven members of the D.C. Council recently went to Las Vegas to conduct business for the city. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) were joined by D.C. Council members Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), Anita Bonds (D-At Large) and Vincent Orange (D-At Large) to represented the District at the annual International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) convention that took place May 17-20 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The ICSC is the convention for the shopping center and provides deal-making opportunities for retail and real estate professionals, and local, state and county officials throughout the nation.

The Washington D.C. Economic Partnership, a private organization whose mission is to help the city recruit businesses, leads the District’s effort. The partnership’s president and CEO Keith Sellars said attending ICSC has produced results. “Each year, the Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership has led the efforts to represent Washington, D.C. at the ICSC to ensure the livability and economic growth of the city,” Sellars said. “Since we began attending ICSC, D.C. is now home to 28 grocery stores and our impact will result in $86.3 million in annual sales tax revenue by 2018. Existing retailers represent 7,434 jobs and we estimate that 3,546 jobs will be added to 41 retail locations that are currently under construction.”

The District’s retail market has been rated one of the best in the country by many publications. Firms such as Marcus and Milichap and ChainLinks & Terranomics have said the city is best place to have a retail business.

D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams attended the ICSC in 2000, touting the benefits of the District to retailers despite the city being managed by the D.C. Control Board. Orange has consistently attends the convention and was hailed, when he represented Ward 5, as the force behind the Rhode Island Avenue Shopping Center that includes Home Depot, Giant, and T.J. Maxx. Retailers such as Target, Apple, Costco, H&M, Nike and Nordstrom Race can trace their presence in the District to speaking with D.C. officials at the ICSC.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III also attended the convention.

Bowser understands that not many Washingtonians know about the ICSC adding that it is critical to the economic development of the city. “This is an important event,” the mayor said. “All of the retailers attend this convention to seriously make deals about locating to a city or state. We have done well in attracting retailers to the city generally but the big challenge is having retailers locate in every part of the city.”

As the Ward 4 council representative, Bowser consistently attended the convention and her successor, Todd, has started doing the same. “I didn’t go to the ICSC working for Bowser but I went this year to promote the Walter Reed site as a site for retailers and for Ward 4 economic development in general,” Todd said. “Dozens of retailers have shown interest in the city and particularly Walter Reed. Safeway, Giant, and Harris Teeter all are interested in locating at Walter Reed, but we are really targeting Wegmans.”

Wegmans is the chic, upscale retailer that Consumer Reports ranked as the top large U.S. grocery store chain in 2012 and 2014. Todd said that when he campaigned to be on the council, residents said that they wanted Wegmans at Walter Reed.

“And Wegmans is very interested in locating at Walter Reed,” Todd said.

Bowser echoed Todd’s remarks on Wegmans interest in Walter Reed, saying she would like the retailer to come to the District and preferably at Walter Reed.

Todd described the days at the convention as fast-paced, with meetings between retailers and council members, the mayor, and the mayor’s economic development team. “The city had six rooms where we talked business,” the council member said. “I stressed to the retailers that we need businesses and jobs in Ward 4 and I tried to sell my ward as the best place in the District of Columbia to set up.”

Todd also has a personal reason for wanting a Wegmans at Walter Reed. “When Wegmans comes, I will not have to cook anymore,” he said. “They have a great selection of food and I will go there for lunch and dinner.”