Business Ins & Outs

In: Café Milano No. 2 in Abu Dhabi Café Milano, Georgetown’s popular Prospect Street restaurant, will finally get a sibling — in the Middle East. The second location for the 24-year-old restaurant will open in September at the Fours Seasons Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island, which itself opened just last May. The 200-room hotel is the first Four Seasons in the United Arab Emirates, of which Abu Dhabi is the capital. Franco Nuschese, owner of Café Milano, is now in Abu Dhabi putting the finishing touches on the project. The decor, described as bright, modern and airy, was designed by Adam Tihany of New York to be in tune with the waterfront setting and the restaurant’s signature dishes, inspired by the Amalfi Coast and other regions of Italy.

In: Georgetown Row, New Business Group Georgetown Row, a new business group formed to get more attention for the small businesses on the upper blocks of Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, held an Aug. 18 meeting at Via Umbria. Seeing the M Street corridor getting the most pedestrian activity, the merchants are looking for ways to get more shoppers to come up Wisconsin Avenue — from O Street on up past R Street. Organized by Ifat Pridan of Lili the First boutique and hosted by Suzy Menard of Via Umbria, the meeting called for close cooperation with Book Hill merchants as well as the Georgetown Business Improvement District and the Georgetown Business Association. The group, centered around the 1400 and 1500 blocks of Wisconsin Avenue, includes such businesses as the Phoenix, Ella Rue, Susan Calloway Arts and Reddz Trading. It looks for the betterment of retail and to leverage the improvements portended by the Georgetown Theater property’s renovation. Georgetown Row is focusing on upcoming events, such as the Fall Festival (Oct. 14, 15 and 16), which is Parents’ Weekend at Georgetown University; Small Business Saturday (Nov. 26); and Late Night Thursdays in December. The group is also working with the Georgetown BID to ensure that shopkeepers know about the BID’s new Christmastime lighting program, which will string lights along the rooftops of buildings — and to discuss any additional security that may be needed during the longer shopping hours. Other proposals ranged from attaching flags to storefronts to offering a free bus ride to the top of the town, perhaps letting tourists off at R Street to walk down Wisconsin Avenue. The group’s next meeting will be at 9:30 a.m., Sept. 1, at Via Umbria, 1525 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Email for more information.

In: United Bank Acquiring Cardinal Bank

Tysons Corner-based Cardinal Financial has agreed to be acquired by United Bankshares in a deal worth about $912 million, approximately twice Cardinal’s tangible book value. To date, United Bank has acquired 10 banks in the D.C. metro area, including Bank of Georgetown in April and Virginia Commerce Bank in 2013, making it the number-one community bank in the area based on deposits. Cardinal Bank brings $4.2 billion in assets and 30 banking branches, along with its George Mason Mortgage LLC residential mortgage business, boosting United’s assets to $20 billion. The merger is expected to close in mid-2017, subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals. The boards of both banks approved the deal.

Out: From CREEP’s Watergate Lookout to Fancy Apartments

The former Howard Johnson Hotel across from the Watergate complex is to become Boathouse, an apartment building with health-oriented amenities. ,In recent years a George Washington University dorm, the property at 2601 Virginia Ave. NW was purchased from GW for $36 million by Urban Investment Partners, based in D.C. In the days of “All the President’s Men,” the hotel was used by Committee for the Re-Election of the President operatives to stake out Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Office Building.,As first reported in the Washington Business Journal, UIP will spend $44 million to expand and renovate the building, creating 250 units. There will also be a coffee shop, a fitness center, a swimming pool and a roof deck. The project is “focusing on access to the park and the river, promoting a healthful lifestyle,” according to UIP principal Steve Schwat.

People’s Counsel Appeals PepcoExelon Merger

The Washington, D.C., Office of People’s Counsel recently filed an appeal to overturn the D.C. Public Service Commission’s March 23 decision to approve the merger of the local energy utility, Pepco Holdings Inc., with mega-utility Exelon Corp, citing “a number of procedural weaknesses” in the multiyear process. OPC opposed previous merger proposals until Mayor Muriel Bowser was able to negotiate an acceptable level of benefits for residential taxpayers, including a $78-million investment in D.C. and a three-year hiatus on rate increases for residential customers, at which time OPC agreed to the merger terms. However, the PSC, which had also rejected all prior agreements, stripped out many of the mayor’s provisions and “effectively gutted” the protections from future residential rate increases, as well as additional protections for low-income ratepayers, according to the mayor — and approved the merger. Following the merger, Exelon included a one-time $50 credit to residential accounts, then asked the PSC for a 5.25-percent rate increase of $85 million, prompting the appeal by OPC as well as a promise to fight the increase.

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