The First Home-Themed Mall In America Is Coming To Stafford County, VA
Stafford, VA—off I-95, but just outside what’s traditionally thought of as the DC Metropolitan area—is getting a retail project that is unlike anything in the US.
Home Centers USA will be a themed mall, a product that has found success in Europe and Toronto. But unlike Toronto’s Pacific Mall, which has hundreds of stores that all have ethnic diversity in common, Home Centers will be a 300k SF destination mall centered around the home, with as many as 400 smaller stores.
“The traditional mall industry is not doing well,” Jacob Manevich, part of the team behind Home Centers USA, tells Bisnow. “Every mall is all the same stores, it’s boring and there are no new concepts that have come out. This is something different.”
Jacob says the mall is slated to open in 2019.
Home Centers will be different. There will be no traditional anchor, Jacob says. Retailers and suppliers, or avant-garde investors, will be able to buy their own retail condos, although a portion of the mall will be retained for traditional leases.
The retail shops will be as flexible as possible. Jacob says owners can use them as showrooms for their inventory, and switch displays at a moment's notice.
Despite the singular focus on the home, it will still have restaurants, a food court and all-day activities, including an indoor playground, a performance stage and do-it-yourself workstations.
“It’s a large, destination product,” Jacob says. “It’s not going to be where teenagers go to hang out. It’s meant for a specific crowd and a specific need for that crowd.”
While Stafford seems like a remote location for such a concept, the site the Home Centers team has chosen is right off I-95. Jacob says about 130,000 cars drive past it every day. It’s 15 miles south of Potomac Mills Shopping Center, which draws tens of millions of shoppers every year, technically the No. 1 tourist destination in Virginia. Stafford also has been the fastest-growing county in Virginia for years.
“This is Ashburn 10 years ago,” Stafford County business development administrator Rick Cobert says. “When I started here four years ago, I spent the first year explaining where Stafford County was. I don’t have to do that anymore.”
Not only is Home Centers on the cutting edge of demographic shifts in the region, the new trends its concept is hitting on are some of the most advanced in the retail industry, CBRE director of Americas retail research Melina Cordero (snapped above this winter) told Bisnow after she studied Home Centers USA’s promotional materials.
CBRE released a report on placemaking for retail two months ago, and Melina says Home Centers looks to be hitting “on every one of these trends” from the report.
“I think the big thing that’s interesting here is their approach to the financial structure, they’re turning the landlord-tenant relationship on its head,” she says. “What’s really smart as well is focusing on these boutique independents. There’s a really big shift today, and I think it’ll last: consumers are tired of these big national brands, and Millennials are focused on craft.”
The flip of the landlord-tenant relationship, Jacob says, is not only to give home retailers more ownership over their space, if they decide to buy a condo for themselves, but also as an entrance point for a different, newer type of real estate investor.
“For people who invest in these crowdfunding platforms who are buying shares of a company, this is a natural progression for them,” Jacob says. “They own the real estate, they control who they lease it to, for how much.”
For a concept that is outside the box in both location and execution, the natural question is: Who’s going to finance it? While it is the first major project for the Home Centers team as a group, Jacob spent years at Lerner Enterprises, and also works for a retail private equity fund.
Home Center's parent company NRD Retail is also working on a venture in Gainesville. Jacob says the project has private investors, but the group will start to approach limited funds and already has established relationships with traditional lenders.
The financing and approvals will determine whether Home Centers USA opens in 2019 as planned. Jacob says they're working in the entitlements process right now, but Rick says the county does not have an active application yet.
Time will tell on Home Centers USA. But one thing is for sure right now: real estate in Stafford County just got a whole lot more interesting.