AREP in the News

First Look at Assembly, the D.C. Region's Newest Food Hall

July 27, 2021

Washington Business Journal

By Daniel J. Sernovitz

American Real Estate Partners is nearly ready to take the wraps off Assembly, the food hall atop the Rosslyn Metro station, a project that’s been more than two years in the works and was thrown a curveball by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Assembly at Rosslyn City Center, a 29,000-square-foot space spread over two levels at 1700 N. Moore St., is slated to open this week for a sneak peak for tenants and next week to the wider public. AREP partnered with DMK Restaurants of Chicago on the hall,  which features a range of food and beverage options from morning coffee to evening cocktails and vegan tacos to steak frites.
DMK, co-founded by David Morton and Scott Gidwitz, has stocked the food hall with a range of its own businesses including Pntry, a gourmet prepared food bar and market; Fog Point Oyster Bar, a full- service seafood restaurant; and Great Lake, a classic diner. There will also be quick-service stalls — a taqueria, a sandwich shop and one serving Asian street food, among others. The food hall's menus come from DMK Executive Chef Brian Huston, a 2015 James Beard Awards semi-finalist in the Great Lakes region and Assembly Executive Chef Cameron Cousin. Jeff Siebold will oversee the food hall's operation as its general manager.

"This fits right in DMK's wheelhouse insofar as we were given a really expansive canvass to work  with," said Morton, of the Morton's steakhouse family.  "We really wanted to try to develop or create a center of gravity, being a place where you’re just as delighted to work  in first thing in the morning, hang out for as long as you  want during the day, and close out the day with cocktails."

It’s part of a larger wave of food halls that have opened or are planned for Greater Washington. At one point, three were planned for Rosslyn alone, with one of them, Happy Endings, opening before the pandemic. The third, a second-floor space called Common Ground planned by restaurateur Mike Bramson's Social Restaurant Group, has been scrapped, according to JBG Smith Properties, which owns the Central Place complex where it was  to open. Bramson could not be reached for comment.

AREP announced in September it had swapped in the DMK team for Oz Rey, the first company it had partnered with on the food hall,  after the two parted ways in 2020 without getting the former food hall off the ground. The McLean-based commercial real estate firm hopes Assembly will fill a void in the Arlington County neighborhood, which is more established as a business district than for its restaurant scene, as well as help it to attract and retain office tenants.

“He’s delivering things that are just simply not in the market,” Paul Schulman, principal and chief operating officer at AREP, said of Morton. “You can call it a food hall,  but it’s so much more than that, it’s a breakfast, lunch, and dinner environment. It was  really complementary to what we were providing from an office standpoint to our  tenants.”

The food hall is the centerpiece of a larger, $35 million renovation of Rosslyn City Center, formerly known as Rosslyn Metro Center, that also includes a new facade, renovated common areas and office suites. AREP retained a team including architecture firm Cooper Carry, designer Karen Herold, and branding firm Wow and Flutter to help with the renovations, which are expected to be complete by October.

On the retail side, Gold's Gym has opened in new space above the main Metro entrance, and a newsstand that shuttered during the pandemic is also back open in renovated space. The building has a new Chase Bank branch, and legacy tenant Panera Bread remained open during the renovation.

Mary-Claire Burick, president of the Rosslyn business Improvement District, said she believes Assembly will provide a place for residents and workers to gather, not just to grab lunch. She admits she feared an over-saturation when it looked like three food halls were in the works but thinks the Rosslyn City Center venue will be a strong addition to the area.

Rosslyn enjoyed a surge in new restaurants heading into the pandemic, including Open Road and Salt from Metropolitan Hospitality Group and Sfoglina from Chef Fabio Trabocchi. (All have made it through Covid-19 and remain in the neighborhood.) But Burick said one of the things she has heard from companies thinking about moving into the area was a desire for more amenities for their employees — and she hopes Assembly will help the BID’s efforts to attract more of those firms. "What I love about this is it’s an experience, and it’s, I think, the perfect addition for the neighborhood and where we are right now,” she said of Assembly. “I just think it’s a good example of all the development that’s happening in the area and that we’re able to capitalize on trends.”