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Market study: Loudoun Wawa 'only store of its type'

Tuesday - 2/18/2014, 10:44am  ET

wawa.jpg
Bubba, 2, leans out of his owner's pick-up truck parked in front of the first Wawa convenience store, opened in April 1964, in Folsolm, Pa., Thursday April 22, 2004. In addition to competing with other convenience stores for spur-of-the-moment grocery business, the chain now tries to pry customers from fast-food restaurants, doughnut shops and gas stations. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

Wawa's first attempt to open a store in Loudoun County is proving to be a pain in the gas, but a new market study performed on behalf of the popular convenience chain, and at the request of Loudoun staff, suggests the county should welcome it.

The Rappaport Cos., in its report dated Jan. 27, is expressly pro-Wawa, declaring that the store planned for the intersection of Old Ox Road and Oakgrove Road in Sterling, less than a half mile from the Herndon border, "will fulfill a major customer need for fuel" while providing multiple services in a single location that no other business can.

"The increasing residential population, existing traffic, and the employee base of this market will highly benefit the proposed Wawa, as it will be the only store of its type within a five-mile radius," Jason Yanushonis, Rappaport's leasing and brokerage representative, wrote in the report.

The problem for Wawa, though, isn't that it might fail, but rather the county's Comprehensive Plan, which frowns on single-story convenience stores in the Route 28 business area. The plan envisions retail uses built into, and supportive of, office or flex development, not stand-alone retail.

The last time Loudoun planners weighed in, they opposed the Wawa, as does the town of Herndon, though the final decision rests with the Board of Supervisors. And last we checked with Loudoun Supervisor Shawn Williams, R-Broad Run, Wawa was headed for eventual approval.

Wawa and its land use team argue the store will serve the existing and approved residential units nearby, provide services for major nearby employers (CACI Inc., Raytheon Co., AOL, Orbital Sciences Corp., MC Dean and others) and enhance the look of Route 606 with "attractive architectural design, landscaping and use of high quality materials."

Who are and what is Wawa's customers and market? Per Rappaport, there are roughly 4,800 businesses, 74,914 residents, 20 million square feet of office space and 5 million square feet of flex space within a three-mile radius of the proposed location. Approximately 125,000 vehicles pass through the nearby Route 28 and Old Ox Road intersection every day.

Within a five-mile radius of the proposed location, the total spending in two categories — "food away from home" and "gasoline and motor oil" — totaled $878.2 million. Also within a five-mile radius, there are 42 existing convenience stores, Rappaport found, but those stores "do not provide all of the services in one location such as Wawa will provide."

The next volley is this back-and-forth is expected in early March, with the Loudoun zoning office's latest response.

© 2014 American City Business Journals, Inc.