Silver Line a draw for some new retailers


Wal-Mart is planned as part of a new development in Tysons Corner at Route 7 and Westwood Center Drive. (Courtesy of MV+A Architects)

Wal-Mart, CVS, 24-hour Fitness and Golfsmith are among the national retailers that have cropped up around Silver Line Metro stops in recent months.

The idea behind those openings, real estate developers and retail brokers say, is simple: To fill day-to-day necessities for Tysons commuters — and a growing pool of residents — that are likely to balloon with the arrival of the much-anticipated Silver Line.

“From a retail perspective, we’re going to see more supplemental businesses in Tysons: Grocery stores, dry cleaners, a place to get your shoes fixed,” said Heather Arnold, director of research and analysis at Streetsense, a Bethesda-based design and real estate firm.

Developers say the Metro played a defining role at a number of new projects in the area. At Tysons West, a mixed-use development near the Silver Line’s Spring Hill Road station,  brokers said they looked to similar area neighborhoods such as Friendship Heights, Ballston and Bethesda for clues on catering to both office workers and residents, as well as to drivers and Metro riders.

“Tysons is still maturing into a 24-hour city we all want it to be,” said Jay Klug, principal at the JBG Cos., which oversees Tysons West. “I don’t think anyone knows how it will unfold.”

One thing he doesn’t expect, Klug says, is for retailers to ditch the area’s two shopping malls in favor of new strip malls and mixed-use developments.</p><p>“The retail market in Tysons is defined, and will continue to be defined for a long time, by its malls,” said Klug, who serves as chairman of the Urban Design Council for the Tysons Partnership. “I don’t think new service retailers will compete, ever, with the scale and quality of retail that’s in the malls.”

Tysons Galleria and the original Tysons Corner Center, where Apple opened its first-ever retail store, have become booming mainstays, attracting shoppers from all over the region at a time when many shopping malls are shuttering their doors and going out of business.

Retailers at the Tysons Galleria, for example, brought in a whopping $973 in sales per square foot during the first half of last year, according to the ratings agency Morningstar.

“Nobody else can compete with that,” Klug said. “Even the most established strip centers in the Tysons area would offer only a fraction of that.”

David Dochter, senior director of the retail services group at commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, agrees.

“In the near-term, it’s going to be amenity retail and entertainment-driven retail,” he said of the new arrivals to Tysons. “Unless a new project has enough critical mass, meaning 300,000 square feet of pure retail, it’s going to be challenging to get fashion” retailers.

Patrick Hayden knows this well.

Hayden, director of retail operations for NV Retail, has spent months courting retailers to participate in his pop-up retail village steps away from the Silver Line’s Greensboro Metro stop.

“Originally our plan was to have some shopping and some food,” Hayden said. “But we found that [a pop-up site] doesn’t fall into what retailers envision when they think of Tysons.”

Instead of competing with established shopping malls, Hayden has shifted his focus to independent food retailers, including a lobster stand, coffee shop and French bakery. He is  in the process of getting licensed by Fairfax County, but says he expects the pop-up — comprised of five shipping containers — to be up and running by Sept. 15.

“In three to five years, we’ll start construction on a number of different mixed-use buildings,” he said. “But as far as what’s going on in the short-term, it’s all about shops that provide the basics.”

Abha Bhattarai covers local banking, retail and hospitality for The Washington Post’s Capital Business section. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.
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