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Shopping center eyed for city's west end

October 20, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A Jacksonville, Fla., company hopes to break ground in the next 12 months on Martinsburg Town Center, a 75-acre retail shopping center proposed along the western side of Interstate 81 within the city, the company's investment manager said Wednesday.

Seth Long of Regency Centers Corp.'s Vienna, Va., office, declined to specify the company's investment in the project envisioned between Delmar Orchard Road and W.Va. 45, but anticipated the shopping center could open by the end of 2008.

"There's additional acreage (about 25 acres) we're not developing today," Long said.

In a profile of its Mid-Atlantic investments provided to city leaders, the 43-year-old company bills itself as the leading national owner, operator and developer focused on grocery-anchored, neighborhood and community retail centers. As of June 30, 2006, Regency owned 390 retail properties, including those held in joint ventures.

Kroger and Publix grocers and Target, a nationally recognized retailer, have been prevalent anchors in other Regency projects, according to the company's profile.

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"We're looking for a good merchandising mix," Long said.

The area set aside for retail stores and free-standing development sites for restaurants and other commercial enterprise is expected to range from 600,000 to 750,000 square feet, Long said.

"It's going to depend on, at the end of the day, who's going to sign the bottom line," Long said.

Martinsburg Town Center is one of the company's larger projects, which Long said will serve the "tremendous" amount of housing growth in the community.

"The Martinsburg community is underserved by retail," Long said.

Long described the location - practically opposite the Foxcroft Avenue shopping area on the east side of I-81, as "prime" real estate because of its ideal frontage to the highway and good visibility.

The shopping center would be less than half a mile from The Gallery subdivision, the first major development project on about 700 acres annexed by city leaders in 2000.

About one third of the land slated for residential development in The Gallery has been developed, according to City Engineer Michael M. Covell.

Neighboring commercial property to The Gallery's residential area along W.Va. 45 has yet to be developed, but Martinsburg Town Center could cause other projects to move forward, Covell said.

A color, preliminary sketch of Regency's plans scheduled to be reviewed next month by the Martinsburg Planning Commission indicates the shopping center would be accessed from W.Va. 45 and Delmar Orchard Road.

Mayor George Karos said Wednesday the project could bring about the realization of the city's plan for the west end.

"As you can see, the residential (development) is there, now hopefully retail will come," said Karos, acknowledging the potential reaping of economic and tax revenue benefits.

"By the same token, the city has to turn around and provide services," Karos said.

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