Loudoun’s Retail Wish List
Loudoun is in its third inning of development and with six to go, developers see a clean retail slate. Regency Centers VP Devin Corini, a speaker at our Loudoun Boom! event last week at Smokehouse Live (see yesterday’s story), says more restaurants are needed in Loudoun to boost walkability and to help create a sense of place. Walkability will also give a boost to non-dining retailers. The county is largely dependent on cars, and walkability is several years away while the Silver Line gets extended and more mixed-use projects fill the pipeline. Devin says smaller format grocers and more entertainment venues are also needed.
Rappaport president Henry Fonvielle echoes the call for more restaurants, especially since today’s diner spends more time seeking out unique, organic food. (“When was the last time you had a can of Campbell’s Soup?” Henry asked our crowd of over 300.) In that sense, restaurants serve as entertainment. Henry doesn’t think Loudoun is missing much at the moment with successful entrants like Topgolf (opening this week), Whole Foods, Wegmans and Fresh Market.
But there are challenges in luring more unique retailers, regardless if they’re national or regional, says Peterson Cos retail president Taylor Chess. Retailers are “lemmings” that follow other successful retailers. Loudoun hasn’t seen successful placemaking by retailers quite yet, so it makes it difficult to draw tenants to some mixed-use projects in early stage markets like Loudoun. Restaurants also like to see a daytime population and many don’t have faith that it’s in Loudoun, he adds.
But those challenges aren’t scaring away investors, who are coming to Loudoun from all over the country, says Calkain Cos CEO Jonathan Hipp. They’re drawn to the demographics and the disposable incomes and they believe Loudoun will only get better, he says. Investors also like that every project in Loudoun today is new. The challenge, adds Jonathan, is that most people who have assets in Loudoun don’t want to sell them.