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Developer Q&A: Peterson Cos. President Of Retail Paul Weinschenk


Peterson Cos. is known for major placemaking projects like National Harbor that create a destination. It has done that in Loudoun County with Commonwealth Center, an entertainment venue with a TopGolf and an iFLY. We talked with Peterson president of retail Paul Weinschenk about the next phase for that project and the two other major Loudoun County projects in the company's pipeline. 

Bisnow: What about the location of Commonwealth Center made it prime for entertainment venues like TopGolf and iFly?   

Weinschenk: What drew us to the property was its location at Route 7 and the Loudoun County Parkway, and the fact that we could look at that and the planned road system and recognize it has regional presence that pulls east-west and allows north-south traffic through that portion of the county to be easily connected to our property. The thing that’s true about TopGolf and the thing that’s true about iFly is they both like having visibility and they both like having access to where people live and where people work, and the Commonwealth site was perfect. So we felt there was an opportunity to start putting together something that has more of an entertainment component.

Bisnow: How well has it performed since delivering? Has it exceeded your expectations?

Weinschenk: Yeah, we’ve been really happy with both TopGolf and iFly. They’re both doing extremely well in those locations. That has spurred other conversations with them for other locations in our portfolio, and it’s also caused us to have conversations with other entertainment users looking to see who would be a good complementary use for what those guys have. Ultimately, I think what we can do is round out those entertainment uses with a few others and add some food to them. There’s going to be some retail in that portion of the project as well that will do well in an entertainment-oriented kind of venue.  

Bisnow: With destination retail like this that people will travel for, what does that do for the surrounding area in Loudoun County? Does it help boost the area around it?  

Weinschenk: I think one of the things that’s extremely interesting is it plays well with our neighbor across the street, One Loudoun, which has got a movie theater so it’s got an entertainment piece, and it’s got restaurants, more traditional retail and it’s got a grocery store. Between our project and what One Loudoun is, you’ve got really this wonderful destination, this real node for people to spend time and do things. 

Bisnow: What is the next phase of Commonwealth Center going to look like? You said it will likely include more food options?

Weinschenk: Food options will absolutely be a part of what we do out there. The market is ready for more food out there and we want to bring more food out there as part of whatever we do next, which I think could very likely be an activity-oriented entertainment experience. You can think of the Dave & Buster's of the world, or any high-end bowling venues of the world. That’s a piece of it. But it could also potentially be retail that has kind of an entertainment quality to it in terms of how they merchandise and how they do their décor. 

Bisnow: What is the timeline for that next phase of Commonwealth Center?

Weinschenk: That is going to be entirely market dependent. We’re having some good conversations with retailers, with folks who would fall into these kinds of categories. But until they’re ready to go and be a part of this, it’s a little difficult to say. We’d love to break ground on the next chunk at some point in 2017, but at this point it’s probably premature to nail down a specific date.  

A rendering of Peterson's previous plans for the Avonlea development

Bisnow: Peterson has another major Loudoun County project in the pipeline with the 28-acre Avonlea site. What does the company like about this southern Loudoun location that makes it right for a big mixed-use development?  

Weinschenk: This is one that’s got a Route 50 presence. It’s right on Route 50. It happens to also be adjacent to a future interchange at the Loudoun County Parkway and Route 50. So it has the ability to draw people who can get to it easily. What we see along 50 is a variety of good, grocery-anchored centers. Some great projects have been built there that meet the daily needs. But no one has yet built the place, the spot that you go to to hang out on Saturday night to see a movie and have a nice meal and do some good shopping. The place that when your family is visiting from out of town, you take them to to show off where you’re living. There’s some great residential there, but there isn’t yet a great place, so this is going to be that.  

Bisnow: What is the specific plan for the project? What components will it have?

Weinschenk: It's anchored by a Cinépolis movie theater. Cinépolis is a high-end theater chain. It’s the fourth-largest theater chain on the planet and these guys are throughout South America and have been growing in North America as well. They really offer a very polished and comfortable theater-going experience. So that’s the lead piece of it. We’re going to add to that a mix of restaurants, everything from a polished casual to more upscale dining, there will be some quick-serve as well. We see an opportunity here for potentially a higher-end grocery store in one of the phases of the project. We broke ground on this last summer and have got some of the earth work completed, some of the utilities installed and we’re working with the theater as they do all of their design and planning to figure out exactly what the final timing will be of their opening.  I think at this juncture it’s probably in the spring of 2018.  

Bisnow: Can you talk a little bit more about how you plan to create a sense of place? Are there any existing developments you would compare it to?  

Weinschenk: So the idea, the way they create that sense of place, part of it is through the architecture and the design quality of the materials. You have buildings that face one another, they have nice side rocks, nice landscaping. You’ve got spaces in between buildings that are ideal for outdoor dining, that are ideal for just hanging out. It’s about having a plaza that will be in front of the movie theater and surrounded on a couple of sides by nice restaurants and great seating areas a fountain. Just a nice place to come and hang out that you can then program. You can do events. You can do a farmers market, a pumpkin patch, a concert series, Saturday morning yoga. Fairfax Corner in some ways is the most similar in terms of a layout but this will by no means be a copy of that. This is going to have its own style, its own character. It’s going to reflect Loudoun County. It’s going to reflect the area to the west and the more rural and horse country-oriented kind of quality of Loudoun County. 

Bisnow: What other projects do you have planned in Loudoun?

Weinschenk: We’ve got Compass Creek, which is several hundred acres of land that we’re planning long-term for retail. There might end up being a lifestyle component to it. But the initial approach there is kind of more traditionally power-oriented retail. Walmart acquired a piece of the land from us. They’re planning to break ground probably next year. We’ve got office uses we could do out there. So we’re trying to sort through how we bring that online. But in the meantime we’ve built a bunch of roads out there and extended utilities and are preparing it for development.