Planners to discuss shopping mall plan

Virginia Gateway developers who hope to expand the Gainesville shopping center, possibly to include a Target store, will make their case to the Prince William County Planning Commission at a public hearing tonight.

They are asking the county to rezone the proposed expansion site, which includes the former Atlas Ironworks building, to allow retail use.

The 53-acre site is adjacent to the Virginia Gateway center along U.S. 29.

The proposed expansion calls for a variety of retail stores and possibly a hotel or office building. It could include up to three “big box” anchor stores, and one anchor site includes space for outdoor storage, said county planner David Grover.

In January, Virginia Gateway developer Peterson Cos. said Target was interested in building on the site, but nothing could be definite unless the rezoning request is granted.

The county planning staff is recommending denial of the rezoning request because the retail development isn’t compatible with the county’s vision for the area.

The site is zoned for heavy industrial use, but the 1998 comprehensive plan –used as a blueprint for development in the county — earmarks it as a flexible employment center. That designation calls for light manufacturing, startup businesses and office space, with less than 10 percent retail use.

To rezone the site for retail business would allow up 930,000 square feet of retail space and generate up to 40,000 additional car trips in the area daily.

There are about 1.7 million square feet of existing retail space approved in the immediate vicinity of the site, according to the planning staff report.

If the Planning Commission takes action on the request, their recommendation will be considered by the Prince William Board of County Supervisors on June 25.

Public hearings start at 7:30 p.m. at the McCoart Administration Center, 1 County Complex Court, off the Prince William Parkway near Woodbridge.

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