The grocery store chain Giant Food is coming to Scout on the Circle, recently signing a lease agreement to serve as the anchor store for the long-developing project in the City of Fairfax.
Property owner and developer Combined Properties announced on Aug. 3 that Giant will have a 54,000 square-foot store with a pharmacy in what has been designed as a mixed-use community located at Fairfax Circle near Routes 50 and 29.
Combined Properties has worked with Giant before at other properties, and discussions on a lease agreement for Scout on the Circle started three to four years ago, according to Linda Dreyer, the real estate firm’s director of marketing.
“They are a great partner,” Dreyer said of Giant Food. “We think they deliver a wonderful product to consumers, and we enjoy working with them.”
In addition to the Giant grocery store, Scout on the Circle will feature 29,000 square feet of additional commercial space and 400 apartment units. The development will also have two parking garages.
Giant’s longstanding relationship with Combined Properties, the property’s location on a major entryway into Fairfax City, and the surrounding area’s demographics all made the prospect of being an anchor store for Scout on the Circle attractive to the grocer, which operates about 167 supermarkets in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and Delaware.
“We thought [it] was a good fit for us and a good fit for our customers,” Giant Food community and public relations manager Jamie Miller said. “…These mixed-use developments are really impactful. They really contribute to a sense of community in the neighborhoods where these are opened.”
The agreement with Giant was crucial to moving the project forward, according to Dreyer, who says that Combined Properties has received “dozens” of calls from brokers looking to get their retailers involved since the announcement.
Scout on the Circle is a redevelopment of the Fairfax Circle Plaza shopping center, which was originally constructed in the 1960s but is now empty after its retailers have left or gone out of business.
While Dreyer says she was not sure exactly how many years Combined Properties has been working on the redevelopment, a May 2016 article in The Washington Post says that the property owner first floated the idea of changing the strip mall into a mixed-use community in the mid-1990s.
Progress on the redevelopment, however, has been slow, which Dreyer attributes in part to the fact that many property’s tenants had been signed to long lease terms.
Combined Properties, which owns three other shopping centers in the City of Fairfax, ultimately negotiated with those tenants to relocate them to other properties in the area owned by the real estate firm.
The Scout on the Circle project at last received land use approval from the Fairfax City Council in May 2014, and Combined Properties is currently working with city staff on the site plan review and permitting process.
“It’s not necessarily atypical for a project of this size for permitting to take some time after the approval,” City of Fairfax community development and planning director Brooke Hardin said.
The pace of project was also affected by Combined Properties’ acquisition of a small parcel of land adjacent to the main property in order to build a roadway that would provide alternate access onto Pickett Road and Blake Lane, according to Hardin.
“This project was right on the border in between the city and the county, and the additional piece that they acquired was in the county,” Hardin said. “That added some time in terms of their review and getting their permitting in place, but it’s a large-scale project that does generally take a fair amount of time to work through the review.”
Now that Scout on the Circle has its anchor store, though, Combined Properties has been able to set a more concrete timeline for the project.
Dreyer anticipates that the developer will break ground on the project between December of this year and early 2018, with an estimated 24 months until it is completed in 2020.
In addition to Scout on the Circle, Combined Properties owns Pickett and Turnpike Shopping Centers, along with Courthouse Plaza. The firm is currently “looking at different development opportunities” for Courthouse Plaza, Dreyer says.
“We have a huge investment in the city,” Dreyer said.
According to Hardin, a fiscal impact analysis conducted by the City of Fairfax after it approved Scout on the Circle estimated that the project could produce between $2.4 and $2.8 million in revenue annually for the city.
The net revenue for the city is expected to be closer to $820,000 per year.
Scout on the Circle is a central part of Fairfax City’s comprehensive plan for long-term development, which designates the Fairfax Boulevard corridor as a principal center for mixed-use and commercial development in the hopes of revitalizing an aging portion of the city.
“This project’s very much in keeping with that guidance in the plan,” Hardin said. “It brings an anchor grocery store like Giant that serves the day-to-day needs of the surrounding area, but it also is built in the more urban, walkable format that we’ve been looking for in these areas.”