Wal-Mart plans a Tysons Corner store that is smaller and more focused on groceries and fresh food than the chain’s traditional Supercenters, which can be more than twice as large and offer a wider array of goods. The store will be similar in size to one that recently opened in Alexandria. The chain announced in November that it planned to open at least four stores in the District that will also have large grocery components, and store officials have been meeting with residents and city leaders as they finalize plans.
“As we get closer to opening our first stores in D.C., Wal-Mart will continue to seek additional opportunities in surrounding communities like Tysons Corner to spur economic development and provide local customers with a broad assortment of products at everyday low prices,” company spokesman Steven Restivo said in an e-mail.
Wal-Mart has stores in suburban markets such as Bowie, Burke, Fairfax, Germantown and Sterling, but it has focused on expanding in urban markets, including New York and Chicago. The chain is updating store designs and loosening parking requirements to accelerate that growth. Although most Wal-Marts are accompanied by large, surface-level parking lots, in the District the chain plans one store that would be built beneath apartments and one above another retailer.
In Tysons, Wal-Mart is adapting its format to gain a foothold in an area expected to add millions of square feet of density and thousands of residents in coming years. JBG, based in Chevy Chase, bought the site in 2007 and plans to raze the existing Cadillac and Hummer dealerships. It will keep the six-story parking garage that had been used to store new cars and build the Wal-Mart into the first level.
“They showed some flexibility to go into this space,” said Jay Klug, vice president of development and acquisitions for JBG Rosenfeld Retail. “A lot of retailers we talked to were reluctant to do that. I think they have a pretty enlightened view of the kind of development that we want to do.”
Some union leaders and small business advocates have been fighting Wal-Mart’s plans to open in the District. A member of the D.C. Council proposed two bills last week that would require chains operating stores of at least 75,000 square feet to sign “community benefits agreements” with neighborhood groups and pay wages beginning at $11.75 per hour. In Virginia the going might be easier, particularly because it is a right-to-work state, meaning employees cannot be required to join unions.
Fairfax County’s plan for Tysons Corner aims to change the area from a sprawl of suburban office parks with fewer than 20,000 residents to an urban area that will maximize the use of four new Metro stations and become home to more than 100,000 people. Many of the auto dealerships along Leesburg Pike have been bought by developers, including the Moore dealership, which moved to Chantilly in 2007. But the area still lacks basic amenities for residents; Tysons has the same number of Macy’s department stores — two — as it does grocery stores.
JBG has received zoning approval for the 160,000-square foot Wal-Mart-anchored project, Klug said, which could make it one of the first new developments of Metro-accessible Tysons.
A new road will connect Ashgrove Lane and Westwood Center Drive, and JBG is in negotiations with a gym to open above the store. Future phases require approval but could add 300 or 400 apartments in high-rise buildings, officials said.