Caution: D.C. Council Members Headed to Las Vegas


Some D.C Council members are preparing for a trip to Las Vegas at the end of the week. It is for a retail and real estate trade show, which some of them have attended before, at the Las Vegas Convention Center across from the Las Vegas Hilton and near the new, shiny Wynn Resort and other temptations.

Their attendance may be good for Washington business, but it still looks a little awkward, what with the brouhaha over a GSA trip to Sin City in the Nevada desert.

RECon — May 20 through May 23 — is the “world’s largest gathering of retail real estate professionals and provides the opportunity to network, make deals and learn from industry experts,” the group says. “No other retail real estate convention attracts a worldwide audience. With over 30,000 attendees and 1,000 exhibitors it is the largest industry convention, making it an unparalleled opportunity to do a year’s worth of business in just three days. So, if you are looking to meet with retailers to discuss new or existing leases in your center, then you need to have a presence at RECon.”

WAMU, which first reported on the Las Vegas trip, wrote: “The D.C. Council is doubling down on Las Vegas this year, sending an unprecedented number of council members and staff to the Global Retail Real Estate Convention, which is hosted annually by the International Council of Shopping Centers. The D.C. Council is sending perhaps as many as 15 or 16 people to the . . . conference, many on the taxpayers’ dime. Why? The city’s real estate market is hot. Big box retailers want in, and once-overlooked neighborhoods and projects — St. Elizabeth’s, Walter Reed, Penn Branch — are now primed for development. Council members are looking to, as several put it, bring home the bacon.”

Council members reportedly traveling to the show include chair Kwame Brown — who wrote a letter to his peers about the trip and told WAMU, “Clearly my letter indicates that for everyone going, there should be justification on why you are going” — and Jack Evans, Jim Graham and Vincent Orange.

According to Washington, D.C., Economic Partnership, the local non-profit which has registered some of the council members and others for the convention, “Washington, D.C., has remained a top investment market both nationally and globally, even through the most recent recession. Despite D.C. development activity bottoming out in 2009 with only 4.3 million square feet of construction starting, it made a quick and significant comeback in 2010 with nearly 11 million square feet of construction starts. This dramatic increase was in large part due to federal and local government investment in the office, hospitality and education development markets.”

“The increase in retail space last year verifies that the District’s retail market is alive and thriving, and we need to make sure that this story is being told across the region and the nation,” says Keith Sellars, president and CEO of Washington, D.C., Economic Partnership.

O.K., that’s a pretty good reason. Besides the obvious attractions, a big one is no longer there. The Lamant Peterson-Amir Khan boxing match, set for May 19 at Mandalay Bay, has been canceled because Peterson failed a drug test.

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