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Coming in 2015: Loudoun Co.'s first Whole Foods-anchored retail center

Tuesday - 7/8/2014, 5:00pm  ET

Loudoun County's days as one of the only jurisdictions in the Washington area without a Whole Foods Market are numbered.

Regency Centers Corp. (NYSE: REG) has started site work on an 18-acre retail development in Ashburn that will feature the county's first Whole Foods supermarket and a host of other retailers and restaurateurs. The popular grocery chain has agreed to lease 40,000 square feet in Regency's Belmont Chase center by Claiborne and Russell Branch parkways, slated to open in 2015.

Recency Senior Vice President Alan Roth told me Tuesday the grocer's commitment has helped create interest from other retailers. Roth said he was surprised Whole Foods wasn't already in Loudoun when the two began lease discussions. Whole Foods officially signed on as a tenant late last year.

The center's 90,608 square feet of retail space is already about 80 percent pre-leased to retailers including Hawk Winery and Restaurant, to open its first D.C.-area location in Ashburn, and Cava Mezze Grill, which likewise is making its first expansion into the county. Peet's Coffee & Tea, Bella Beach Spa and PR at Partners Hair Salon and Spa have also signed on as tenants.

Regency plans to close in the next 30 days on its acquisition of the development site, part of a larger mixed-use development Toll Brothers developed in the area that also includes residential and office components. Roth said Regency has an aversion to creating typical "cookie-cutter shopping centers" and set out with Belmont Chase to "create a really unique, synergistic merchandising center."

Belmont Chase is just one of several active projects Regency has in the D.C. area, which has become a larger focus for the Jacksonville, Florida-based company since it acquired its first two properties here in 2002. The company now has more than three dozen properties in the region.

Regency announced plans last month to launch a roughly $12 million renovation of its Kings Park Shopping Center in Burke. The work will involve demolishing Giant's former 28,610-square-foot grocery store and replacing it with a more modern, 52,000-square foot Giant. Regency is also planning upgrades to the center's remaining 40,000-square feet of retail space, common areas and landscaping.

Roth said Regency had planned to upgrade Kings Park, by Burke and Rolling roads in Fairfax County, since it acquired the property in a larger portfolio deal with First Washington Realty and the California Public Employees Retirement System in 2005. The Giant closed last month and is slated to reopen in spring 2015.

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