One of the hottest retail areas in the city is along both F and 7th Streets where several mixed-use projects are underway. The T-shaped corridor is the heart of a new cultural and entertainment district emerging downtown. Cultural venues, like the world-renowned Shakespeare Theatre (map, #29), the new convention center (map, #1), and the MCI sports arena (map, #10) are the anchors of the cluster.
“Fifteen million people per year already visit 20 well-established museums of art, history and culture situated between 7th and 11th streets, from Pennsylvania Avenue up to K Street. This neighborhood is one of the most culturally dense urban entertainment districts in the country and runs along several key Metrorail stations. We intend to foster an evolution that will add unique retailers to the mix,” says Rob Edwards, manager of business promotions at the Downtown DC BID. “The local population is under-served and the amount of leakage to the suburban malls is unacceptable,” Edwards adds. “Both the Gallery Place and Metro Center subway stations are at the crossroads of the entire region. No suburban mall can even begin to compare themselves to the amount of consumers here. Now we need to bring the retailers to them.”
Seventh Street has emerged as the most attractive location for restaurants and entertainment. “Our firm has been involved with the reshaping of many urban corridors and when we saw the potential of this area with two Metro stations and planned entertainment we located our client, the District Chop House (map, #20) here in 1996,” comments Eric Rubin, principal with Madison Retail Group. “Their sales exceeded projections in the first year, and as a result we helped to establish this corridor as a haven for food and beverage,” says Rubin. The corridor features a mix of local and national restaurants such as Ruby Tuesday, Legal Seafood, and Fado (map, #18) as well as regional galleries, design and furniture stores.
Apartment Zero (map, #26) is a modern design store that opened at the intersection of 7th and D Streets in October 1999. “We had scouted the D.C. area for six months to a year and identified three locations,” says Christopher Ralston, co-owner of Apartment Zero. The two front-runners were the affluent areas of Bethesda and Dupont Circle until Ralston and co-owner Douglas Burton recognized the potential of 7th Street.
After a 10-year stint at General Growth Properties Inc., Ralston was familiar with the boom in Main Street retailing and urban revitalization sweeping the country. “We knew that this was going to be the next hot area,” Ralston says. The volume of both residential and commercial building occurring within a one-mile radius of 7th Street was one clear indicator of the area's renewed energy.
So far Ralston and Burton have been proved right. “Our sales have exceeded our expectations,” Ralston says. In addition, the 7th Street corridor has seen a surge of activity. “Without question the dynamics and revitalization of downtown D.C. is becoming a reality,” he says.