Wegmans Opening First DC Store At Fannie Mae HQ Redevelopment
Wegmans, the highly popular grocery chain that draws DC residents to its NoVa and Prince George's County locations, will open its first store in the District.
The Rochester, New York-based grocer will anchor the redevelopment of Fannie Mae's headquarters at 3900 Wisconsin Ave. NW, from Roadside Development. The developer expects the store to open in 2020 or 2021, depending on the timing of the entitlement process.
The supermarket will occupy the main brick building fronting Wisconsin Avenue. Roadside and its partner, North American Sekisui House, are working on plans for an urban village that will include retail, residential, cultural arts, hospitality and commercial uses.
Roadside founding partner Richard Lake said the grocer will occupy roughly 80K SF on the building's lower level and face a new street that will come through the complex, the centerpiece of the new village. He called Wegmans "one of the best employers in the country" and said now that it has signed on, his team can use it as the foundation of the rest of the development's design.
"It’s monumental for them to participate in this redevelopment," he said. "It allows us to start to design everything around a user."
The DC government was closely involved with the deal to bring the chain to the District, and Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the deal at ICSC ReCON in Las Vegas on Sunday evening. Lake said it was a 10-year-long negotiation to eventually get Wegmans to commit to its Washington entrance.
“As we look to expand retail and grocery options across the District, Wegmans is a decisive win for our city,” Bowser said. “Going forward, we will continue to forge strong, public-private partnerships like this one that benefit DC residents and families and help us spread inclusive prosperity throughout all eight wards.”
Wegmans' Prince George's County location at Woodmore Town Center has been wildly successful, bringing in $600/SF and ranking as the nation's top Wegmans for prepared food sales. DC residents have long awaited the grocer's entrance into the District. It had been rumored to be looking at the Parks at Walter Reed development, but could not reach an agreement. Upper Northwest DC will now welcome the first DC location, which will sit a half-mile from the Tenleytown/American University Metro.
“We are excited to be a part of the redevelopment of this distinct site,” Wegmans senior vice president of real estate Ralph Uttaro said. “The District of Columbia is an ideal market for us and we look forward to serving new customers and offering a unique shopping experience there.”
While this will be Wegmans' first DC store, it has systematically taken over the suburbs in the farther-out suburbs in the region. It has locations in Leesburg, Fairfax, Sterling, Woodbridge (which Roadside also developed), Gaithersburg, Columba, Gainesville and Alexandria.
The Fannie Mae site also joins a robust pipeline: Wegmans is opening an 80K SF store on Capital One's new headquarters campus in Tysons — Roadside is also developing that project for the credit giant, Lake said — and is in discussions for stores in Alexandria and Reston, the Washington Business Journal reported last week. Lake said he believes the grocer still has more stores it envisions opening in the area.
"I’m certain we’ll pull people from close-in communities in Bethesda and Chevy Chase," he said. "But they have plans to do other stores."
This is not the first development in DC in which Roadside will take an existing building with historic designations on it and convert it into a supermarket. In Shaw, Roadside is developing City Market at O, which is anchored by a Giant that was built in a preserved, 19th century market. Phase 1 of the mixed-use development was a winner of the Urban Land Institute Global Award for Excellence, the highest honor the real estate and planning group gives.
Lake said the Wegmans will draw inspiration from the City Market Giant, with the existing character of Fannie Mae's headquarters informing the design of the store.
"I think City Market really gave us almost an incubator opportunity for us to experiment and explore in how far we can take some of this placemaking and this vertical integration," Lake said. "We certainly showed Wegmans and others how we incorporated an 1881 market into a modern grocery store. Some of what you see here is going to be taken right out of that playbook."
With Wegmans aboard, Lake said the leasing of the rest of the retail of the project will happen briskly, and the developers are actively pursuing the retailers the Upper Northwest community has asked for. He expects more deals to be announced throughout the summer.
"Every once in a while you get to work on a project that everyone gets and wants to be a part of," he said. "This redevelopment is that kind of project to us. We’re experiencing interest that is quite frankly surprising to us."