By Brian Kuhta
Monday, May 17, 2010; 14
Over the years, eastern Prince William County residents have grown a little weary of traveling far from home in search of high-end shopping and dining, given the relative dearth of options close by. Which might explain why more than 2,000 people came out for the part open house, part street festival at the new Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center earlier this month.
The developer closed off the center's streets to give visitors a chance to meander around the complex's mix of shops and restaurants, anchored prominently by a Wegmans supermarket. When kids were not jumping in the moon bounces or climbing on the portable rock walls, they were taking part in an exercise class run by the staff at the newly opened Gymboree. Or hanging out by the firetrucks and ambulances brought courtesy of the Prince William Department of Fire and Rescue. Or bopping to the music from the radio station Mix 107.3, and later a steel drum band.
"We wanted to give the community a taste of what we can do," said Jeff Edelstein, a partner at Roadside Development, the center's developer.
The town center is designed to be a hub of commerce in the Woodbridge area east of Interstate 95. When fully occupied, it will include 25,000 square feet of restaurant and cafe space, 550,000 square feet of retail space, 500,000 square feet of class A office space, as well as a 42,000-square-foot health club. The Potomac Town Center not only hopes to draw consumers from all over the region, but also plans to offer 500 apartment units.
The idea is to re-create a sense of the small towns of old, with intersecting avenues and a "main street."
"You get that urban streetscape feel with the convenience of the suburban setting," Edelstein said.
Town centers are popping up around the region, as communities push to get people out of their cars and back on to sidewalks.
Development of Potomac Town Center was slowed by the economic downturn. In 2005, Mills Corp. had much grander plans for the area, but that dream never came to fruition and in March 2007, the developer sold the 90-acre property to Roadside and its equity partner, BlackRock. Three months later, ground was broken on Wegmans, which was completed in 2008.
And then, not much happened. The credit crisis interupted development of the rest of the town center, and the project is now moving forward in two phases.
The first phase is underway. Two buildings are finished. PNC Bank has opened its doors and 138,000 square feet of retail space has become available. Other retailers are taking notice, Gymboree, Neibauer Dental Care, Chevy Chase Bank, AT&T, a Mexican restaurant called Uncle Julio's and a casual sit-down restaurant chain called Zoës Kitchen have either already opened for business or are preparing to do so in the near future.
The second phase envisions six more buildings of retail. According to Roadside Development, 160,000 square feet of leases are in negotiation. Construction is not slated to begin until 2011.