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By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 9, 2004

The area around Washington Dulles International Airport already has a 1.2-million-square-foot shopping mall - Dulles Town Center - with a something-for-everybody retail mix.

There's a Nordstrom and a Payless ShoeSource.

There's a Godiva Chocolatier and a Blimpie Subs & Salads.

So why is the same developer that built Dulles Town Center in 1999 planning a 300,000-square-foot open-air shopping center, dubbed Dulles 28 Center, just down the road?

"It's all about choices," said Arthur N. Fuccillo, managing director of development for Lerner Enterprises, which is developing the property with the Tower Cos. Both developers are based in North Bethesda. "Dulles 28 Centre is going to give this area more choices."

There's a Waldenbooks at Dulles town Center, for example. But there is no Barnes & Noble, which, according to Fuccillo, is negotiating with Dulles 28 Centre.

"Yes, Dulles Town Center, which Lerner also owns, is 2 1/2 miles away," Fuccillo said. "But the thing about it is, there is no Chico's, no Ulta cosmetics - we've had discussions with them, too - at Dulles Town Center.

"See, the thing about retailing that people need to realize is: You can do this in eastern Loudoun County because not even half the retailers that exist in the industry are represented in this area."

Five car dealerships already occupy the 300-acre Dulles 28 Centre site, at the intersection of Routes 28 and 625, across the street from America Online.

And the new center will have a drawing card, Fuccillo said, that even Dulles Town Center can't match: a Wegmans Food Market that opened in February.

The developers are betting that shoppers at the upscale supermarket will be drawn into some of the center's 45 stores.

Wegmans, a privately owned, Rochester, N.Y.-based chain that reported sales of $3.3 billion last year, is known for its large selection of locally grown fresh produce and foods from around the world. The Sterling store is its first in the Washington area and its first in Virginia.

The Shopping center is scheduled to open in 2006. Dulles 28 Centre will have a 151-suite Residence Inn by Marriott, which is under construction, and a Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole golf course and year-round golf academy. The academy is scheduled to open next summer, the golf course in 2006. Wegmans would be the anchor, with no other grocery or "big box" retailer envisioned.

Lerner and Tower have owned the property since 1987. Fuccillo said the site wasn't ready to be fully developed until recently, in part because area road construction has made access more difficult.

"The interchange at Route 28 and Route 625 took a while to come under construction but now it's under construction," he said.

A bigger reason for not developing earlier, Fuccillo, said, was the population of largely rural Loudoun.

"The population needed to mature, which it has," he said. "The population in Loudoun County has begun to flourish and expand. The growth has been explosive."

In recent news release, Lerner and Tower trumpeted the site's location, three miles north of Dulles Airport and "within minutes" of employers such as AOL, MCI, Xerox and Cisco Systems. They noted that Loudoun has the fastest growing population in the United States and an average annual household income of $126,102.

"Those are important statistics," Fuccillo said. "The population has come to Loudoun and the time is ripe."

Victor E. Ambrosio, a senior leasing associate at Lerner, said the developers discussed whether the Dulles area could support a retail cluster so close to Dulles Town Center. "We wanted to make absolutely sure that what we were doing would be complementary," not in conflict with Dulles Town Center, he said.

Lerner has been negotiating with about 60 retailers, many of which lack a presence in the Dulles area, according to Fuccillo.

"So the question for me isn't so much will our tenants duplicate" what's being offered at Dulles Town Center, Fuccillo said. "These tenants will be coming to this area for the first time, providing people with more choices, which is what retailing is all about."

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