First Renderings Show Potential Future of Chevy Chase’s ‘Rodeo DriveBethesda Magazine May 3, 2016
First Renderings Show Potential Future of Chevy Chase’s ‘Rodeo Drive’
Chevy Chase Land Co. aims to move away from high-end luxury retailers
By Aaron Kraut
The Chevy Chase Land Co. on Monday revealed illustrative renderings of plans for its Chevy Chase property once billed as the “Rodeo Drive of the East Coast.”
At a Monday night public meeting, the company also made it clear the luxury billing—acquired because of tenants such as Cartier, Gucci, Bulgari and Jimmy Choo—could soon be a thing of the past.
“Speaking broadly, I think one of the mistakes that we made back when we were conceiving this a number of years ago was that we actually didn’t take advantage of the existing demographic that we have around us,” company Vice President of Planning and Entitlement Miti Figueredo said. “We want the kind of stores that people want to come to over and over again.”
Company President and CEO Tom Regnell made similar remarks last month upon submitting a site plan amendment to Montgomery County that could bring new public spaces, a new parking configuration and more outdoor seating to the Wisconsin Avenue property just north of the Friendship Heights Metro station starting in 2017.
While the company won’t comment on the status of current luxury tenants, there are vacancies in the property that indicate the high-end luxury retail concept may not be sustainable.
“Part of the impetus for all this is over the last few years, just in conversations with people in the community and also from watching what was happening with our existing tenants, it became very clear to us that luxury retail wasn’t a big hit in this community,” Figueredo said.
Illustrative renderings of the new Montgomery Street entrance (left) and amphitheater (right) planned for The Collection in Chevy Chase, via Chevy Chase Land Co./Streetsense
The Barney’s CO-OP at the shopping center closed in 2012 and the Dior store at the center closed earlier this year. With the opening of CityCenterDC, the new downtown project home to many of the same or similar luxury brands, reports began circulating last summer that the company was bracing for departures.
Figueredo said Monday that some of the current luxury retailers will remain. But along with Bethesda-based firm Streetsense, the company put together plans to reconfigure the shopping center and neighboring Chevy Chase Center property. Both properties will be brought under the same modified name: The Collection.
Figueredo said the company is looking for “aspirational retailers” that would offer products for less than a high-end luxury store, but still fill a niche above major chain retailers.
To the roughly 70 Chevy Chase residents at the Monday night meeting held at the Chevy Chase Village Hall, the move to more ordinary tenants was a welcome one.
Some in attendance said they had opposed the original project, which opened in 2006 with a reported half-million-dollar party that attracted political pundits, super models and a Libyan prince.
“What have you learned?” one resident asked Figueredo. “In other words, was this an abject failure?”
“No, there are a lot of things that work about this project,” Figueredo said. “If I’m being very frank, even though the stores might have individually performed alright, it didn’t create the kind of successful environment that we want there.”
She added the residents immediately around the property, many living in neighborhoods of single-family homes that are among the wealthiest in the country, are “the most enviable demographic from a retail standpoint that you could possibly wish for and yet we weren’t catering to that demographic. That was an oversight.”
Jeff Waldstreicher, a District 18 state delegate who represents the area, said after the meeting he thinks the company’s message “got through.”
“I think a lot of folks came here tonight prepared to be in opposition, but in fact liked how the new focus of this development is going to be for the residents that live here,” Waldstreicher said.
While the mood seemed generally positive toward the broader changes—including an amphitheater-style seating space and a reconfigured internal street—some still had concerns about access to the existing Giant Food store and the safety of a proposed traffic circle near the Montgomery Street entrance.
Upon hearing that the amphitheater seating space could be used for live music, some in the crowd said they were concerned the music would be too loud.
“Think string quartets,” Figueredo said.
If approved by the county Planning Board later this year, the first construction phase could start in early 2017. All phases could be complete by early 2018, Figueredo said.