By the Spring of 2006, this once vibrant mall of the 1980’s had become, in many respects, a ghost town. The buildings had fallen into disrepair, no attention was being given to the landscaping and many of the retail spaces were vacant. Most of the existing businesses were struggling to keep their market share as residents, in increasing numbers, took their dollars to Stafford’s newer malls.
The November 2005 campaign rhetoric on this issue had been extensive but the bottom line was that the property was privately owned and very little could be done by the local government without cooperation from the owners, Ramco Gershensen.
Using resources available at Stafford’s Economic Development Department, Paul Milde obtained demographics reports of the area surrounding Aquia TownCenterand also requested that Virginia Tech put in writing the results of a study they had done on the area the year before. Armed with this information, he began a series of over 20 meetings with Ramco and the many interested parties. Those included Aquia Episcopal Church, local residents, the Aquia Harbour Property Owners Association, VDOT, the existing tenants, as well as prospective new tenants for the redeveloped town center.
Through these meetings, it was concluded that a mixed use, pedestrian friendly town center would be the highest and best use of the approximately 35 acres. One of the challenges with this was that Stafford didn’t have a zoning category to support this type of development so part of the process of redevelopment would need to be creating that new zoning category. Another major concern was how to help the tenants who would be displaced by this redevelopment. At the request of Paul Milde and the Board of Supervisors, the Stafford Economic Development Authority made available a $50K relocation grant package that was matched by Ramco Gershensen. That combined 100K was made available to vacating tenants wishing to relocate in Stafford. All of these efforts culminated into two affirmative votes by the Board of Supervisors. One in the Fall of 2007 creating the necessary zoning category “Traditional Neighborhood Development” (TND) and the other in January 2008, rezoning the area to TND.
If you drive by today, you will see some of the new buildings rising up from portions of the demolished old mall. When this project is finished, it will represent $200 million plus investment in Stafford with 750,000 square feet of retail and office space, 287 luxury residential units including a brand new and 60,000 square foot, state of the art movie theater. This town center promises to bring Stafford dining and retail opportunities that are not currently available to us. High-end retailers demand quality surroundings and in most cases do not consider typical strip centers.
For more information on Ramco Gershensen and the new Aquia TownCenter please visit Redevelopment of Aquia Town Center
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