I’ve lived in downtown-DC long enough to have seen multiple incarnations of the area now known as City Center DC. First, it was the former convention center, which I saw being demolished back in 2004. Then it was a municipal parking lot, where Megabuses and Bolt Buses would load and unload passengers. It was the site of Cirque du Soleil, Kastles tennis matches and a Trapeze school. And then it was a construction site for a while…
Today, it’s a luxurious mixed use space, with more than 185,000 square feet of retail space situated on the ground floor of six buildings that include both rental apartment units and condominiums, as well as office space. Seattle-based Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, who previously worked on the atrium at the National Portrait Gallery, designed the outdoor spaces, with contemporary fountains and marble benches. Every Tuesday in the summer there’s a Freshfarms farmers’ market. And of course, there’s the super-cool kinetic installation conceived by New York media designer David Niles that screens various videos throughout the day and night on the three sides of a 25-foot-high archway between DBGB and Mango Tree. Eventually, a Conrad Hotel will be built on some of the remaining space… but let’s get back to the retailers and restaurants that filled that ground floor. A slate of high-end retailers have signed leases and opened already, with more on the way, turning City Center DC into a downtown shopping destination that hopes to rival Chevy Chase and Georgetown. And of course, a handful of those retailers are French…
I own a ridiculous number of pliage bags, in various sizes and colours so obviously I was very excited when Longchamp announced it would open its first standalone store in the region at City Center. In addition to the famous pliage bags, which line a colourful wall at the back of the store, the petite boutique also sells shoes, luggage, and other leather leather goods for men and women.
DBGB KITCHEN + BAR
Chef Daniel Boulud returned to Washington, D.C. last year by opening DBGB, a casual French-American restaurant that serves a Lyonnais-inspired menu including coq-au-vin, seven varieties of home-made sausages (try the boudin blanc or the tunisienne!) and a baked Alaska for two flambéed with chartreuse right at your table. The bar is also very inviting.
ZADIG & VOLTAIRE
I’m pretty much not cool enough to shop at Zadig & Voltaire, a French-based fashion label known for its use of cashmere in its chic, and edgy clothing & accessories for men & women. This is the first boutique in the Washington metropolitan area for the clothing retailer, which is expending its US presence and also opened new shops in Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles around the same time.
If I’m not trendy enough to shop at Zadig & Voltaire, I’m not rich enough to shop at Hermes 😉 Known today for its iconic colorful carrés and Kelly handbag, Hermès initially focused on leather goods like saddles, which it still sells. The City Center location just opened and sells a little bit of everything from dinnerware (head in to check out the exquisite table setting!) to tie, scarves and baby accessories.
I’ve been using Caudalie’s Vinotherapie skincare line of products for years, so I was stoked to hear that the Thomas-es were opening a boutique and spa at City Center. I’ve already sipped wine from the founders’ vineyard (Caudalie’s first Vinothérapie spa is on the grounds of Château Smith Haut Lafitte near Bordeaux) at their opening event and dropped in for a facial, so yeah, I’m a fan!
Bonus: these five Frenchies at City Center will soon be joined by Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, upping the ante on the already luxurious shopping district . Oh la la!