Saturday, January 28, 2006

Project May Lure Macy's, Wegmans

High-End Mall Proposed Near I-95

By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer

WOODBRIDGE, Va., January 26 - Macy's and a high-end Wegmans supermarket could be the anchor stores of an upscale mall proposed by a regional and national leader in outlet shopping that owns Potomac Mills Mall and wants to tap into Prince William County's burgeoning wealthy population.

The Board of County Supervisors will vote Feb. 7 on whether to approve a Mills Corp. proposal that includes the two retailers, a 150-room hotel and 500 luxury loft apartments. The project, called Potomac Center, would be near Potomac Mills, just east of Interstate 95 and south of Opitz Boulevard.

Board Chairman Sean T. Connaughton (R) said the public seems to want more expensive dining and shopping options.

"It's been an interesting proposal because normally we are told by folks that they don't want retail, but because this application puts forth some higher-end restaurants and retail, we've heard positive comment from citizens," he said.

The project, which the county Planning Commission passed 6 to 2 on Jan. 18, still needs supervisors' approval. "We're still trying to iron out some of the details on employment and transportation," Connaughton said.

The county's Comprehensive Plan calls for office space at the location where Mills wants to build, said Pat Thomas, a county planner for Potomac Communities, Prince William's revitalization plan for the Route 1 corridor.

The Mills plan, which outlines 100,000 square feet of office space so far, falls short of the 500,000 the county wants there, Thomas said. "It's in conflict with Potomac Communities," she said.

The county and the Arlington-based company are negotiating and looking at phasing in more office space than the current plan proposes, Thomas said.

"What we don't want them to do is build all the residential, build all the retail and then build all the office at the end," she said.

Mills issued a statement Tuesday saying it will accommodate the 500,000-square-foot requirement with 100,000 square feet to be built in the first phase of the project.

The company is following other developers in creating more high-end housing and retail as the county's population grows in size and wealth. Potomac Mills, built in 1985, remains one of Virginia's biggest tourist attractions. Mills surveyed county residents and found they are driving to Tysons Corner Center, Pentagon City in Arlington and Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax County to shop.

Jo Natale, a spokeswoman for Wegmans Food Markets Inc., said the Rochester, N.Y., chain sees the Woodbridge location as a place for expansion because of "the new housing growth, access from I-95 and the proximity to Potomac Mills, a regional draw."

In recent years, Wegmans has expanded into the Washington area, opening supermarkets in Sterling and Fairfax in Virginia and Hunt Valley in Maryland.

Lerner Enterprises, the Bethesda-based developer of Tysons Corner and Dulles Town Center, is a partner with Mills in the Potomac Center.

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