2022's Top 10 Retail Center Experiences: RIO is No. 10

CSA picks retail's most engaging centers
Al Urbanski
Real Estate Editor & Manager
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When it comes to mixed-use properties, Peterson Companies thinks big.

The Fairfax, Va., company originally re-created downtown Silver Spring, Md., some 20 years. But tastes have changed and Peterson has updated the center of town with new color schemes, gathering places, and a 300-ft.-long mural. It transformed an empty mile-and-a-half of land on the Potomac River into National Harbor, a tourist and conventioneer destination with 160 stores, 2,500 residents, a Topgolf, and a Gaylord Convention Center.

This year it has put the finishing touches on its transmogrification of RIO, a 610,000-sq.-ft. center in Gaithersburg, a suburb north of the nation’s capital that mixes White House Black Market, Target, and two Marriott hotels with eateries like Yard House, Silver Diner, and True Food Kitchen on the shoreline of a 9-acre lake.

“The lake is a unique attraction that has worked great for our food and beverage offerings, which have outdoor seating lakeside,” said Paul Weinschenk, Peterson’s president of retail. “We have a great, 3,000-sq.-ft. outdoor dining area.”

Peterson worked with a local hospital group to add a mile-long “Path to Wellness” along the lakefront, which has an 8,500-sq.-ft. playground with shade pavilions.

Activities abound. Kids play on the bronze sculptures of Fridolin the Bear and Kimo the Cat around the area where Lakefront Live, a summer concert series, conjures a warm buzz with music and a beer garden.

Peterson just signed a lease with Sportrock climbing centers to fill a 45,000-sq.-ft. former gym space next to Dave & Busters, making RIO 100% leased.

“Traffic has been phenomenal,” Weinschenk said. “People are really thrilled to have a normal life again.”