Wegmans, the regional supermarket chain with a legion of die-hard fans, is coming to Washington.
The company’s first D.C. store is set to take over a portion of the sprawling Fannie Mae headquarters on Wisconsin Avenue NW, across from Sidwell Friends School, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced Sunday.
Fannie Mae is scheduled to move out of the complex late next year, clearing the way for Wegmans to open by 2022, according to Richard Lake, founding partner of Roadside Development. The grocery store, which is expected to take up about 80,000 square feet, will be located on the lower level, with an entrance at the back of the building, Lake said.
Wegmans’s move to the District — which it has been eyeing for years — is part of a broader expansion in the region. The Rochester, N.Y.-based company opened its first Virginia store in 2004 and expanded to Maryland the following year. The company now has 10 locations in Virginia and eight in Maryland. Stores are planned for Tysons Corner and Chantilly, and there have been reports that the grocer is scouting locations in Alexandria and Reston.
“People know them and love them, but until now they’ve had to travel to the suburbs,” Lake said. “With this store, we’re bringing Wegmans right to their doorsteps.”
The D.C. location will be one of the company’s smallest, and most urban, outposts. The supermarket chain, known for its sprawling stores, has in recent years begun planning more city-friendly alternatives. A Brooklyn location, Wegmans’s first in New York City, is expected to open next year.
But that’s not to say the District’s first Wegmans will be small. The store will be about twice the size of the Whole Foods Market in Logan Circle, which measures 40,000 square feet. It will also be larger than Georgetown’s “social Safeway” (71,000 square feet) and the Giant store at City Market at O (78,000 square feet). A newer suburban Wegmans is usually at least 120,000 square feet.
“We open just three or four stores each year and as such, we’re very choosy about sites,” Valerie Fox, a spokeswoman for Wegmans, said in an email. “We look for a site large enough to accommodate a store our size and adequate parking. We also look at population density. Our business model is predicated on high volume, so we need a lot of customers to shop in our stores and we need to hire a lot of employees to serve our customers.”
Consumer Reports routinely ranks Wegmans as one of the country’s best supermarkets. It has become something of a cult favorite among its regulars, who praise the company’s fresh produce, prepared foods and low prices.
“Wegmans is a decisive win for our city,” Bowser said in a statement. “Going forward, we will continue to forge strong public-private partnerships like this one that benefit DC residents and families and help us spread inclusive prosperity throughout all eight wards.”
Roadside and the Japanese home-building giant Sekisui House bought the Fannie Mae property, a 228,000-square-foot stately brick building, for $89 million late last year with plans to create a mixed-use development. The rest of the project — which is to include an additional 100,000 square feet of retail, as well as hospitality and residential components — is scheduled to be completed in 2024, Lake said.
“We want to preserve [the buildings], and we are interested in working with the community and city in preserving that experience all the way through,” Lake told The Washington Post at the time. “Our vision is not to gut them and just keep the facades. It’s really to use them, to incorporate these buildings.”
Wegmans, founded 101 years ago, currently has 92 stores. It previously partnered with District-based Roadside in an unsuccessful bid to redevelop the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center site in Northwest Washington.