If you’re reopening a shopping mall in a neighborhood that’s become a hub of malls, what better than to have a fairly lavish re-opening party? That’s what Clarion Partners did Thursday night at the Chevy Chase Pavilion, which has been reinvented as a retail, office, hotel, and dining space. The cost was $32 million, which, in addition to the redo of the building’s nine-story atrium, included a renovation of the parking garage. That matters because how most people get there is by car, and after that Metro. The Friendship Heights station is about a block away.
But Chevy Chase Pavilion is not in Maryland. It’s in DC, about two inches from the border, and that’s why a cheerful DC mayor Vincent Gray stopped by for an appearance that combined walking, eating, meeting, greeting, and speaking all in one fluid motion. He was in and out in under 30 minutes, followed by staff carrying a bag of food-to-go prepared by Bryan Voltaggio, the chef-owner of the Pavilion’s striking and massive Range restaurant. While Voltaggio conducted a personal tour of his restaurant’s innovative design and food operation, the mayor kept pace and noshed on a plate of colossal shrimp and other items from Range’s grill and raw bar. The pair paused at the display of sweets at the candy and cookie bar. Who wouldn’t?
The mayor’s mood and visit prompted one wag to comment, “If he’s appearing at the opening of a shopping mall, and eating the food, he’s running for reelection.” We didn’t quite get the logic, but who knows? After all, he wasn’t kissing any babies, and he would not reveal his future plans. What he wanted to do was talk about development in the city, which has been robust.
Chevy Chase Pavilion is at the corner of Military Road and Wisconsin Avenue where the two intersect with Western Avenue, which is the DC-Maryland line. In addition to Range and the Cheesecake Factory, its tenants include J.Crew, World Market, Starbucks and an Embassy Suites hotel. Across Wisconsin Avenue is the venerable Mazza Gallerie, which opened in 1978. It’s home to Neiman Marcus, Williams-Sonoma, Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s, and an AMC movie theater, among other retail businesses. In the other direction, across Western Avenue, is another mall, which is home to Bloomingdale’s. A short hop up Wisconsin is the Chevy Chase Center, with a Clyde’s, a Giant, and the so-called Collection at Chevy Chase, with luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior and Tiffany & Co. The phrase “Shop till you drop” comes to mind, but Clarion Partners would like you to do that at its pavilion—so don’t think there’s not mall competition.
The party’s guests were A-list in the world of real estate development: executives from Clarion, Streetsense, Cushman & Wakefield, Cassidy Turley, Hitt Contracting, CB Richard Ellis, Transwestern, Rappaport Retail. There were also, of course, a lot of media to beat the drums, which is not tough to do when the friendly Range waitstaff are nonstop with wine, trays of clever cocktails, and plates of oysters, shrimps, pâté, charcuterie, cheeses, an assortment of pastas, grilled prime beef, fresh-baked bread, pizzas, and desserts. The party started in the lower level of the atrium, with canapes and a cover band. From there guests rode the escalators up to Range to eat all that good food, groove to a deejay, and hang out in the adjacent cigar bar, Civil. That’s also where Clarion hosted its after-party. An after-party at a shopping mall opening? Why not?
The hefty swag bag included cigars from Civil, chocolates from Range, cards for a slice of cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory and a cup of coffee at Starbucks, a candle from World Market, a plastic shoehorn from Richey & Company, and the purely practical from CVS: hand sanitizer and SPF 50 sunscreen.