Chevy Chase celebrates ‘Rodeo Drive’ of East Coast

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

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Zaid Hamid⁄Special to The Gazette
Edward Hall Asher, Chevy Chase Land Company president, supermodel Petra Nemcova and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews at Thursday’s opening.

Click here to enlarge this photo
Zaid Hamid⁄Special to The Gazette
About 700 people attended the $500,000 bash to unveil The Collection at Chevy Chase. Mingling beneath a tent behind the luxury boutiques, the guests dined on hors d’oeuvres and went through about 50 cases of champagne.

The vibe was Beverly Hills meets Beltway, as the Chevy Chase Land Company celebrated the grand opening of its new string of high-end boutiques on Wisconsin Avenue.

The new name, The Collection at Chevy Chase, is the crown jewel of the $165 million Chevy Chase Center redevelopment project. Billed as the ‘‘Rodeo Drive of the East Coast,” tenants of the 112,000-square-foot space include Christian Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Bulgari, MaxMara, Cartier, Ralph Lauren, Co-Op Barneys New York, Jimmy Choo, Famoso Restaurant and Lounge, M Café and Klinger Advanced Aesthetics.

The opening culminated over a decade of work in wooing the big-name retailers to come together in one place, Chevy Chase Land Company President Edward Hall Asher said.

Thursday night’s event, a half-million-dollar bash for 700 of Asher’s friends and colleagues, had all the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood premiere, but with a decidedly Washington flavor. Celebrity sightings included CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Washington lobbyist Tom Quinn and Libyan Prince Idris Al-Senussi. Local officials attending the shindig included Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger and Village of Friendship Heights Mayor Melanie Rose White.

Supermodel and tsunami survivor Petra Nemcova also attended and received a $10,000 check from the Chevy Chase Land Co. for her tsunami relief charity, the Happy Hearts Fund.

Announced as Capital File Magazine’s summer ‘‘It” couple, MSNBC’s ‘‘Hardball” host Chris Matthews and his wife, WJLA news anchor Kathleen Matthews, served as the guest hosts for the party. The Matthews live just on the District side of Chevy Chase.

‘‘I like to see economic development,” Chris Matthews said with a laugh. ‘‘I think the poor people of Bethesda need a little break.”

An army of 50 valet parking attendants clad in bright blue blazers stood in the front of the two buildings. Most of the guests arrived in their own chauffeured limousines and town cars.

Arriving guests entered through the sculpture garden that bisects the two buildings of The Collection. The well-dressed partygoers proceeded through the courtyard, many performing a double-take after making eye contact with the watchful gaze of the live mannequins. A dozen models posed and pouted in six storeroom windows flanking the entrance, displaying styles from Ralph Lauren, Dior and Tiffany and Co.

‘‘The live mannequins were a little bizarre,” said Friendship Heights village manager Julian Mansfield, who attended the party with his wife, Robin.

Robin Mansfield felt the overall scene itself a bit unusual for Friendship Heights.

‘‘I see a lot of people trying really hard,” she said, laughing. ‘‘It just doesn’t seem like Washington.”

Jane Mahaffie of Stonebridge Associates, who worked with the Chevy Chase Land Company on the development, said the glamorous bash is emblematic of what the Washington, D.C., area has become in recent years.

‘‘It’s a very international city,” Mahaffie said. ‘‘And there has not been an economic downturn in this area. So the wealth has continued to grow. And people from the stores were indicating that they had the clientele shopping in New York. They wanted to have a presence here.”

Mansfield joked that she would be more likely to take advantage of the development’s new neighborhood retail stores like the Giant or Gifford’s Ice Cream & Candy Co. than the luxury boutiques.

‘‘Maybe when Louis Vuitton has their 95-percent-off sale,” she said.