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Future Apple Store Location - Georgetown Washington D.C.

Future Apple Store Location - Georgetown Washington D.C.

While people are wondering what is going on in the retail world, Apple is simply trying to get a permit to open their new Georgetown (Washington D.C. store). Well, the people of the Old Georgetown Board  are not bending even for Steve Jobs and Apple. Apple has submitted plans on at least three occassions in order to get approval, but they are just continue to be denied.

Apple is being denied because of their design and there are some people who say “Take that Apple” (they must be PCs!..lol), but I think they need to get that store open. Many people also think Apple should’ve opened the store in Chinatown, but let us evaluate the site selection like the professionals that we are.

Chinatown- Gallery Place (Verizon Center)

  • Emerging Retail Market
  • Direct Metro (Subway Station)
  • Second Best Retail Corridor in Washington D.C.
  • Newer Residential Market

Georgetown

  • Established Retail Market
  • No Metro Stations
  • #2 Tourist Destination after the Mall (Good luck getting a store there)
  • Georgetown University, George Washington University and American University all within a close proximity. Especially GTown.
  • Nearly recession proof housing market with a variety of high househould incomes.

So, should they go to Chinatown? No! They are in the right place, but it is time to get those plans approved and open.

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In any city U.S.A. and other parts of the world, there are parts of town that were once vibrant retail corridors with many boutique retail stores. Many of these retail corridors have shops boarded up and after dark, mainly unsavory characters can be found along the main street. Additionally, these retail corridors are covered with Chinese Carry Outs, Laundromats, Check Cashing Shops, and maybe a few liquor stores. Although, these retail businesses have their place in the world, more is needed in the historic retail corridors.

So what do I think is needed to revitalize historic retail corridors (besides money)?

  • Risk Takers: homegrown business owners and would be entrepreneurs need to establish their businesses in the neighborhood.
  • Community Support: the community needs support the local business owners and not run off to the suburbs to go shopping.
  • National Attention: some major retailers also need to be prepared to open up in these urban corridors. Rumor has it that Walmart intends on targeting many of the urban markets around the United States because the see the potential of the consumer.
  • City Investment and Support: the local municipality needs to bend over backwards to get the properties along these corridors back on the tax role. It is beneficial for everyone. Permitting should be a smooth process and start up business financing should be made available to the budding entrepreneur.

I think the future of North America lies in the cities. Mixed Use development is a growing trend and there is no end in sight as long as the urbanization continues. People are tired of the traffic jams, driving to do all of their shopping and all of the other burdens of suburban sprawl. Bringing life back to the city will help make everyone’s life easier and continue the legacy of our great cities.

oxford-street-1.jpgI am fascinated with cities and I have always been since I was a child. When I started going downtown as a kid, my parents always said be careful and make sure you keep an eye out for unusual things because the city can get you. Well, when I entered the world of real estate and started doing deals/work in the city, my parent’s advice became very applicable.

Doing deals in the cities and urban areas is a bit different from doing deals in suburban strip centers. Let’s just address some of the differentiating factors:

  • Sharing the Building: Many times in the city, you as a retail user are sharing the building with an office, apartments or additional retail users above you. Here is an example, the Ralph Lauren Polo store in Washington D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood is a retail store that only occupies the ground floor of the building. High End Apartments are above the store and are rented out. The store is sharing the building with residents.
  • Preserving History: This can be tricky. In many jurisdictions there is a historical society in place with control over how the buildings need to look and what one can and cannot do. In most cases the way you design your sign and exterior presentation will need to conform with the historic society or else…things can get ugly.
  • Maintenance: In a suburban shopping center there are parking lots, parking lot lights, shared signs, landscaping, the shopping center facade, etc. More often than not these are not part of the urban retail experience. As a result, the operating expenses also known as TRIPLE NET Charges are treated differently.
  • Rent: This can very tremendously depending on where you are located, but across the globe, the dollar per a square foot or meter that someone is paying tends to be significantly more in historic retail corridors. Rents in places like High Street Kensington (London), Fifth Avenue (Manhattan) and M Street (Washington D.C.) tend to be much higher than the rent in suburbia. Rent is a complex issue and will covered in more depth in future entries.

If this is your first time opening a retail store and it happens to be in the city, you are probably better off in terms of adjustment than the person who has 5 stores in suburbia and is about to venture into the big city. The person doing their first deal in the city is going to have to modify their thinking. Many times landlords of historic urban properties are either out of town landlords, families or residential investors who bought a building because of the apartments and the retail was just a bonus. Many of these landlords are not in the business of fixing up their properties, so be prepared for an “As-Is” deal. Also be prepared to have very specialized construction/renovation requirements if there are residential or office tenants above you. There is something call quiet enjoyment and it can be tricky if you a music store with 3 levels of apartments above you.

The stuff above might make it seem that leasing space in the city is bad, but it really is exciting if you know the ins and outs before. Do some research on your target city and see if there are some special requirements (Always!) for retail stores. Now drive around town look for potential sites for your store and make that deal. Cities are coming back and now is the time to open a store in your city.

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