(Washington, DC) Mayor Adrian M. Fenty today joined west elm, a Brooklyn-based furniture seller, in opening its flagship store in the historic Woodies Building downtown. The 37,000 square foot store is the District’s largest furniture store and its arrival is an important addition to the increasingly bustling downtown retail market.
“Downtown retail is back,” said Mayor Fenty. “At one time, the Woodies building was the centerpiece of a regional shopping destination, but in recent years our downtown’s offerings slipped to little more than some White House snow globes and FBI t-shirts. Those days are long gone. Today, we’re attracting national retailers like west elm–which has stores in Manhattan, Miami and Santa Monica–who want to build their flagship stores in downtown DC.”
West elm and Douglas Development, which owns the Woodies building, used $4.9 million from the District’s $30 million Downtown Retail Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program to help finance the project. The subsidy was used to help pay for build-out costs for the two-story store and will be repaid using a portion of the future sales taxes generated by the retailer. Douglas Development also used the TIF program to attract H&M, a high-style low-priced apparel store to Woodies. The District is supportive of using TIF for two more projects: Zara, a trendy Spanish clothier and the London wax museum Madame Tussauds, which are expected to open this fall. The west elm store created more than 120 jobs and nearly 70 percent of them have been filled by District residents.
The Retail TIF program was created to provide incentives attract unique retailers, particularly apparel and home goods providers. While the District’s traditional downtown has undergone an incredible transformation from a 9-to-5 office zone to a vibrant, bustling 18-hour city where people not only work, but live, shop, eat and play. Retail is a critical ingredient for that mix but our downtown, and the city at large is still considerably underserved.
Each year, the District leaks more than $1 billion in retail spending by residents to the suburbs. This spring, the District’s Office of Planning kicked-off what a Retail Action Strategy, that will not only prescribe a series of actions necessary for reversing retail leakage, it will identify steps for attracting new national-brand and independent retailers to our neighborhoods as well as strategies for helping our existing retail base expand and prosper.