Qatari Investors: Huge Downtown Development Project Must Conform to Shariah
The New York Times' profile of the CityCenterDC project has mostly nothing new in it if you've been following the huge downtown project at all. But it does include this fascinating nugget about the requirements of its Qatari investors:
Even before the Qatari investors became involved, Hines and Archstone determined that leasing to banks would not help them create lively shopping streets, Mr. Alsup said. But as it happened, their hesitancy on bank branches meshed with the policies of their financial partners, who adhere to the restrictions of Shariah, or Islamic law, including the ban on collecting interest. Restaurants will be able to serve liquor, but retailers whose primary business involves selling alcohol will not be allowed, Mr. Alsup said.
In their marketing materials, Hines and Archstone say they intend to provide “an authentic place for urban residents to socialize outside their homes.”
So, no bars or banks for the biggest downtown construction project in recent memory! As Bill Alsup alluded to, banks aren't all that great for a city streetscape, and it's admirable that they planned to forego such a dependable and high-rent-paying tenant. It's less advantageous, though, to not have business devoted primarily to selling alcohol. CityCenterDC is unlikely to be plagued by liquor stores, but it could definitely use a few places to be out at night drinking without getting a full dinner. Could Qatari money turn CityCenterDC into more of a black hole than the last piece of the puzzle in a living downtown?
(Also, I'm really sick of seeing the word "authentic" used in marketing and branding materials—and using it for a brand-new commercial development is particularly meaningless).
(Also I'm thinking about looking into this further—if you've heard any other examples of investors having moral or religious stipulations for the things they fund, drop me a line).