The Mosaic District, which opened last fall in Merrifield, is the anti-mall. The handpicked local boutiques, national retailers and restaurants are clustered on tree-lined sidewalks with easy-access parking.
But before you can see it for yourself, you’ve got to find it. An exasperating aspect of Mosaic is its secret location in our own traffic-choked Bermuda Triangle where Interstate 66, Route 50 and the Capital Beltway converge in Northern Virginia suburbia. On my first visit, GPS and MapQuest steered me to a dead-end in a residential Fairfax neighborhood. There, a postal carrier told me I was not the first person to wind up in the cul-de-sac, looking for something called Mosaic.
Jodie McLean, president of Edens, the owner and developer of Mosaic, called the mapping concerns a “huge issue” and said the company has spent “endless hours” working with mapping authorities to fix navigational problems.
When you finally get there, you’ll find Mosaic to be a retailing hybrid, borrowing elements from town centers, strip malls and small-town shopping. The anchors are Target and Last Call Studio by Neiman Marcus, the luxury store’s spinoff offering lower-priced designer clothes, handbags and shoes. Mixed in are small boutiques whose owners were courted to open branches in Mosaic, including South Moon Under casual clothing, Amethyst jewelry, Bellacara beauty products and Lou Lou accessories.
“The consumers here are well educated and well traveled,” says McLean, whose company is also the developer of Union Market in Northeast Washington, offering artisanal food. “We wanted a place reflective of all of those things.”
A major player in Mosaic is the Angelika Film Center & Cafe chain, known for cushy stadium seating and cutting-edge flicks. Yes, you can drink martinis while watching “Skyfall.” It offers a Crybaby Matinee (children younger than 5 are free) and Baby Boomer Thursday (the over-55 set gets a $7 flick and free popcorn with purchase of a fountain drink).
Kelly Khlopin, manager of the Ginger women’s clothing and accessories boutique, calls Mosaic “an alternative to Tysons and Reston.” Ginger also has locations in Bethesda and Winter Park, Fla.
If you don’t want to try to navigate your way out of there after dinner, there is even a 148-room hotel, the Hyatt House, with a large lounge area equipped with a pool table.
What is it?
Mosaic is a mixed-use development nestled in traffic- and crane-filled suburbia. Townhouses and apartments will be completed later this year. About half the stores and restaurants are open, including Mom’s Organic Market MediterraFish seafood market and Freshbikes.
Timothy Paul: Carpets Bedding Home: It took a lot of persuading to get the husband-wife team of Timothy and Mia Worrell, who 10 years ago were retail pioneers in Logan Circle, to open in Merrifield. “We are city people,” Mia Worrell says.
But they came around and brought their upscale global wares: hand-knotted area rugs from Nepal, Morocco and Turkey, priced from $150 to $10,000; sofas with sizes to fit both McMansions and narrow townhouses, from $3,000 to $5,000; and pillows sewn from handblocked fabrics and vintage saris for $100 to $200. This store, which offers custom design services, has more space than the couple’s two D.C. locations combined. “We like the fact that the store is outside, so it feels less suburban,” says Worrell.
Dawn Price Baby: Dawn Price, a lawyer, CPA and mother of twins, launched herself into the baby business in 2004 with a store on Capitol Hill that carried her picks for the best mid-priced to upper-end baby clothing and gear. You’ll find $32 navy sweater outfits by Angel Dear and lightweight $729 UppaBaby Vista urban strollers (now available in purple). After opening branches in Georgetown and Reston, she decided the demographics of the Mosaic customer (lots of young moms) would be good for business. “The mix of stores here draws busy people,” Price says.
Sleek wood and painted steel trash cans, teak and stainless benches and concrete urns furnish the Mosaic walkways. “We consider our streets a community living room, and these accessories are the jewelry of our community,” McLean says. “You wouldn’t put just any tall metal trash can next to your own sofa.” Parking lots were designed to be well lighted without awkward columns to maneuver around.
Soft, generously sized twill Abyss & Habidecor Egyptian cotton Portuguese bath towels ($66) available in 60 colors. At Timothy Paul: Carpets Bedding Home.
Olive wood mortars and pestles hand carved in Tunisia for smashing garlic or crushing herbs. $25 and up at Ah Love Oil & Vinegar .
GRAB A BITE
There are several places open now, and coming soon are Taylor Gourmet, Matchbox and Cava Mezze Grill. Locals are awaiting the opening later this year of RJ Cooper, a new farm-to-table restaurant by chef R.J. Cooper of Rogue 24 and formerly of Vidalia and the Oval Room.
Don’t believe the GPS. For now, check the Mosaic Web site for directions. The Orange Line’s Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro Station is about a half-mile away and has shuttle buses to Mosaic. The development offers free electric car charging stations, and valet parking will be offered later this year from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. for $5.
By the Numbers:
Businesses: 22 open, 18 more by the end of 2013
Parking spaces: 3,000 free spaces
Rubber stamps carried at Paper Source: 500
Number of Angelika movie screens: 8
Plan your visit
2910 District Ave., Fairfax, Va.
Hours: Most stores are open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 12 to 5 p.m. Sunday. But check the Web site for exact hours, as they may vary slightly by store.
Where do you shop? Staff writer Jura Koncius scours the Washington area, searching for the best home and design finds. E-mail her at email@example.com if you know of a neighborhood that should be profiled.