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Walmart, Costco set sights on Richmond Highway sites

Monday - 3/8/2010, 2:19pm  ET

Site of new Wal Mart on Richmond Highway (Kristi King/WTOP Photo)
The Walmart Neighborhood Marketplace will be built at the former Kings Crossing Shopping Center. (Kristi King/WTOP Photo)
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- A rundown section of Richmond Highway will see some new life. Walmart plans to open an upscale grocery store where Michael's and Chuck E. Cheese's used to be located in Fairfax County's Penn Daw neighborhood.

"They want to alleviate the sea of asphalt look you see from the '60s and '70s," says Debi Sandlin, executive director of Southeast Fairfax Development Corp. The Fairfax Development Corp. has been working for decades to redevelop and revitalize Route 1.

Sandlin says Walmart will open one of its Neighborhood Marketplace stores in the 6300 block of Richmond Highway.

"It's actually a grocery with some general merchandise. It is primarily what they refer to as an upper scale grocery store."

While the 80,000-square-foot store at the former Kings Crossing Shopping Center will have higher quality food and wine, Sandlin says the store "will have something for everybody."

What will disappear is the huge, unsightly parking lot. In its place, JBG Rosenfeld Retail will develop four storefronts. Each storefront would have two or three retailers, as a well as a pedestrian courtyard tying the four buildings together.

The idea, Sandlin says, is for Walmart to counter community resistance to the big box store by developing a property that has a "sense of place."

Sandlin recently saw the plans for the work that is underway. She says the plot would visually attractive and well-landscaped.

"It's actually beautiful. When I saw it, I was amazed," she said.

The first phase of the project -- the Neighborhood Marketplace -- would open in spring 2011.

The second phase -- the additional retailers -- would open in 2012. Sandlin says retailers have signed letters of intent for 50 percent of those stores. Chuck E. Cheese would return with a 15,000-square-foot restaurant, as well as another 10,000-square-foot store.

Phase three of the project would involve developer JBG Rosenfeld Retail buying an adjacent piece of land that is vacant and developing it into residential, retail and office space.

Walmart already has a store in the 7900 block of Richmond Highway, about 3 miles south of where the Neighborhood Marketplace would be located.

Next door to the existing Walmart, Costco hopes to open.

"Costco has expressed a desire to locate on the highway where the old Multiplex is," Sandlin says.

On the site of the old movie theaters, Costco Wholesale wants to build a 120,000-square-foot store.

Costco has been meeting with the Southeast Fairfax Development Corp., neighborhood groups and local lawmakers about its plans.

For the membership warehouse to build a 120,000-square-foot store in Fairfax County, it will need a special exception zoning permit because big box stores can be no larger than 80,000 square feet in the county.

Sandlin says Costco has agreed to meet certain conditions to locate in the Hybla Valley neighborhood. The store would be right on Richmond Highway with parking behind it and would be well-landscaped, Sandlin says.

It's possible Costco would pay for a bus shelter and to improve the nearby roads, she says.

Sandlin expects the retailer will bring its plans back before community organizations within the next 30 days before going pursuing the special exception permit.

If Costco successfully gets through the zoning process, the club could open 12 to 18 months later.

(Copyright 2010 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)