Manassas Journal Messenger | Parts of Potomac Center plan approved

Despite recommendations for denial of all six applications for the proposed Potomac Center mixed use development, the Prince William County Planning Commission thought otherwise, for the most part.

The approximately 93 acre proposed development is a joint venture of Mills Corp., which brought the Potomac Mills outlet mall to Woodbridge in 1985, and  developer Lerner Enterprises.

The project is a mixed-use “lifestyle center” housing upscale retail, office, hotel and residential uses between Dale and Opitz boulevards on the east side of Interstate 95.

The proposal’s six separate applications include a Comprehensive Plan Amendment, which the Prince William Board of County Supervisors initiated in March, a rezoning and four special use permits.

The Planning Commission approved the Comprehensive Plan Amendment, a special use permit for one of the retail anchors and a special use permit for the proposed hotel at Wednesday night’s meeting.

However, commissioners deferred action until Jan. 18 on special use permits for the other retail anchor, secondary residential units and the residential enclave. They cited various concerns including fire response  and traffic effects and requests for more office space and impervious parking surfaces.

The project plans to bring a maximum of 500 residential units with some located above retail stores, a hotel, two “big box” anchor retail stores totaling almost 400,000 square feet and a pedestrian-friendly layout.

As part of the Potomac Communities Revitalization Plan adopted by the Board in 2003, the area was to be office space, about which planner Pat Thomas reminded commissioners and cited the lack of office space a weakness.

Thomas also noted that the proposed hotel exceeds height regulations and the two freestanding “big box” retail buildings are inconsistent with the revitalization plan.

Thomas also emphasized what she called “over-retailing” of the development, which she said would bring lower wage jobs to the area instead of higher paying office jobs.

Also, Thomas said the Macy’s and Wegmans stores depicted in the artist’s renderings were not guaranteed tenants of the two major anchors.

However, planner Sherman Patrick with Compton & Duling L.C. which is working with the project confirmed that those two stores will be the major anchors.

Trini Rodriguez of Parker Rodriguez Landscape working on the project described the landscaping layout as an “outdoor living room,” with a variety of seating options and tables that incorporate natural elements such as clustered trees and boulders.

Overall, commissioners approved of the general scope of the project, but it “has some pimples,” as Commissioner Russell Bryant put it.

Commissioner Ernie Gonzales emphasized that the surrounding community has asked for this type of high-end retail, so he is in general support of the project.

“I think the theme is ‘Come visit, live, shop.’ ”

Woodbridge resident Lee Castillo spoke in favor of the project, as well, especially at the prospect of the Wegmans store.

“I think this is exactly the kind of project that Woodbridge needs at this time,” he said.

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