Western Development Corp. is proposing to build what it says will be the largest factory outlet shopping center in the country in Prince William County, near the Dale City interchange of I-95.
"We plan to get buses in here, people on their way to Florida and the tourists from D.C.," said Herbert S. Miller, company president. "The southern I-95 corridor is a proven market for outlets from Williamsburg into the Carolinas."
The site of the giant outlet center is less than a mile from where Ernest W. Hahn Inc., a California-based shopping center developer, says it plans to build a 1.4-million-square-foot regional shopping mall.
Miller maintains the two proposed Prince William shopping centers will complement rather than compete with each other, despite reports that many area shopping centers are having trouble finding tenants to fill their stores. He said Western Development, which built the Georgetown Park shopping center in Washington, has a minor interest in the proposed regional shopping center.
"This factory outlet is not competing for stores, but for manufacturers," said Miller. "We think the two malls together will make Prince William County a very exciting place to shop."
The $26 million Washington Outlet Center is scheduled to open sometime next year, said Miller. The Hahn Corp. announced plans for its mall three years ago but has since said the project is on a "holding pattern until further notice."
Prince William County, 30 miles southwest of Washington, has welcomed both proposed shopping centers with open arms. The county lobbied the state for millions of dollars to complete an interchange off I-95 in Dale City, where the two malls would be located.
This month, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted to speed up the application process for the outlet center, saying it will be a boon to the county's economy.
Miller said the outlet center will have 635,000 square feet of space, four anchor stores and 60 smaller stores. Two of the anchor stores will be taken by the Waccama Pottery factory of South Carolina and Cannon Mills, which manufactures sheets and towels, said Miller, who added that a third anchor will be an as-yet-unnamed major furniture manufacturer.
"This is going to be truly the largest outlet center in America," said Miller. "Centers like the one in Allentown don't have anchors, nor are they as large, as the center we are proposing to build."
Miller said manufacturers are enthusiastic about the project but would not say how many have been signed for the Western Development project.
"Manufacturers are increasingly active in direct merchandising," said Miller. "They are becoming better merchants, gaining expertise in the retail field." Some of the stores in the outlet center will be managed directly by the manufacturers, he said, and others will be run by retailers.
Part of its 130-acre tract in Dale City must be rezoned before the outlet center can be built, said county planning director Roger Snyder. He said the land surrounding the Dale City interchange, which includes both the Western Development property and the Hahn property, is designated for business development in the county's land-use plan.
Miller said the company plans eventually to develop the entire 130 acres into a combination retail, commercial and industrial center.