What was the plan for Crystal City? We were able to take a step back and really look at what was missing in the market to create an 18-hour neighborhood. I always like to say we focus on this concept of a 15-minute city, where our renters, workers and visitors have everything that they need and want within that 15-minute walk. So we were able to take a holistic look at what all was in the neighborhood.
How did Amazon’s decision to bring HQ2 to the area impact those plans? I will tell you that the vision did not change. I think what we had for that vision, for the neighborhood, is partially what Amazon bought into. What they did is they gave us an opportunity to help create and further that vision with the leasing and merchandising for Met Park, and the future PenPlace.
Did you think the pandemic would last as long as it did? Not at all. I’m an eternal optimist, and also maybe because of the work that I do, I’m always out and about. I don’t know if that’s my personality or if it’s the job or what, but I just remember, when we were told we’d have to stay indoors for two weeks, I remember thinking, there’s no way I can do that. Like, my mindset isn’t there.
What has been the pandemic’s impact on retail? The one thing I will say is, what made it most evident is how important retail, and having retail open, is to creating that neighborhood energy. You know, during the pandemic, residents still lived in our buildings. Residents were in neighborhoods, but when the retail had to shut for a period of time, it dramatically changed the streetscape, and I think it made it ever more apparent how important retail is to creating that great sense of place.
What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment? I can give you a couple, because I think that they’e pivotal to changing the neighborhoods in which they were in. I will look back in at CityCenter, at a critical juncture, moment in time, with the execution of the Hermes lease there. Luxury fashion has a concept of co-tenancy, and that lease allowed us to go after and attract all the other like-type luxury retailers and restaurateurs that wanted to co-locate next to Hermes, so I think that was a critical moment in time that changed the trajectory that is ultimately CityCenter.
And the other? While it took a little bit longer to get there, JBG Smith’s vision for the ballpark district, and the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, was really to create an entertainment district for Washington, D.C., as anchored by the stadium. The pandemic caused some delay there, but I think if you were to go down to that area today, you’ll see that we were able to deliver on that vision, and I think some of the critical leases we did there — Walter’s, Mission, Royal Sands — are really anchoring that entertainment and the food and beverage that’s at the ballpark.
And what’s next? Today, one of the opportunities I’m most excited about is any day now we will be opening up Water Park in National Landing, and I think that one, too, looking at how we’re changing neighborhoods and creating these meaningful connections for our residents, for our office workers. I think the kiosks are architecturally significant. I think the water feature is really cool. It is an outdoor food hall unlike anything else that this region actually has.
And about those retail kiosks? We had a vision of having Water Park be an opportunity to amplify small, local minority business. We set out these very lofty goals for when we start merchandizing a project, and you never know how that comes to fruition, but we were able to deliver on that promise and that vision. I’m excited for what that will bring to the neighborhood, but I’m also excited for what it will bring to those individual operators. They’re getting a platform, and an opportunity to be part of an exciting opportunity that will hopefully help grow their small businesses as well.
And how did you land a chef like Enrique Limardo? I talked with him prior to Imperfecto, when the restaurant group just had Seven Reasons. I always like to say we like to catch a rising star, and they were certainly on the rise and just had the one restaurant, so we knew they had the culinary capability and the design vision to deliver certainly unique experiences.
Biggest missed opportunity? I can think of a lot of deals that I didn’t get done, for whatever varying reasons, and I can say that I would have thought, at the time, those were missed opportunities. But retailers are optimists. I think I’m an optimist as well, so I think some of those missed opportunities sometimes lead, while it might take time, to a better outcome.
Amy Rice, senior vice president, retail leasing, JBG Smith Properties
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