Aquia Towne Center may finally be rescued from the eyesore it has become. North Stafford residents have been waiting for years for Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust to fulfill its promise to rebuild it. Ambitious plans for a mixed-use town center were put on hold not long after the recession hit in 2008. Since then, the center has consisted of old one-level buildings, vast spaces of asphalt, gravel and dirt, and one modern five-story office building.
Ramco is the company that owns most of the property, which is now known as The Town Center at Aquia. At this time, Ramco is keeping the office building, which also requires about 400 parking spaces. But much of the rest of the property may be going to two companies that plan to revitalize the dilapidated shopping center. If all goes well, the new town center will provide some desired retail establishments, host brand new apartments and improve property values for nearby subdivisions.
The Franklin Johnston Group of Virginia Beach has purchased the southeastern portion of the shopping center where it plans to build apartments.
Stafford County Supervisor Jack Cavalier (I-Griffis-Widewater) said the residential component is likely to happen before the commercial component. Jeff Harvey, director of planning and zoning for the county, agreed and told Potomac Local News that the developer plans to break ground in two weeks.
“The proposed development includes 256 apartment units in eight multi-story buildings [that] include an in-ground pool with a community center,” said Harvey.
The residential portion of the development is expected to take more than a year to complete.
“I just built relations with the developer to allow food trucks in [The Town Center at Aquia],” declared Steven Cook of Steve-O’s BBQ, Burgers & Bacon, a mobile restaurant. Cook made the surprise announcement online May 13. “I will be coordinating a rotating schedule of trucks… during construction,” the post said.
Speaking to Cook via instant messaging, he shared that he has an agreement with Issac Pretter of Mosaic Realty Partners of Maryland to station food trucks in the town center at least until construction is complete. Mosaic plans to redevelop a large portion of the shopping center for commercial use.
The Stafford Board of Supervisors unanimously approved $6.25 million in tax breaks to Mosaic Realty Partners, according to county documents. The tax breaks are an effort to get The Town Center at Aquia project out from under the rubble.
“The Town Center at Aquia… has long been a key commercial gateway to the county,” stated the supervisors’ resolution for the tax break. “The board believes that an active and vibrant major commercial gateway located adjacent to Interstate 95, Route 1 and Garrisonville Road is in the best interest of the citizens of the county and that attractive mixed-use properties significantly increase the potential of attracting much-desired high-end retail to the county.”
It goes on to say the county worked hard to attract an investor for the property and that the board determined that incentives were necessary for the town center to be revitalized.
The most anticipated component expressed by nearby residents is the possibility of a grocery store in the shopping center.
Eron Sodie of Mosaic wouldn’t say which grocery store the company plans on bringing into the site, but he gave a few hints and let it slip that the grocery chain was based in North Carolina. Residents of Aquia Harbour, the neighborhood located behind the town center, have come up with a number of possibilities, but most seem to think Sodie was referring to Harris Teeter.
But there’s a small hiccup. According to Cavalier, the grocery store that is expected to come into the center requires an easement that it will use to create a second entrance on Washington Drive, which is the road that leads into Aquia Harbour from Jefferson Davis Highway. Cavalier said the second entrance would sit approximately 400 feet outside of the Harbour’s front gate. Such a transaction would have to be made between Aquia Harbour and Mosaic since the Harbour owns that portion of the road.
Supervisor Paul Milde III (R-Aquia) said the second entrance being proposed is supposed to be only for traffic in and out of Aquia Harbour.
Sodie said a traffic study will be done. He added that delivery trucks will not be allowed to use Washington Drive, though it’s unclear how that promise would be enforced.
According to site plans, the new grocery store would be built where the movie theater is currently located, at the rear of the shopping center. As for the businesses at the front of the shopping center, they are independently owned, according to officials.