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Duel on the Dual

June 01, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Separate developers are proposing similar shopping centers at U.S. 40 and Interstate 70 east of Hagerstown.

If both centers are constructed, they will transform the area into one of Washington County's largest retail destinations, though many people say it is likely that only one of the two centers will be built.

North Carolina-based developer Faison Enterprises has proposed a shopping center, called Hagerstown Gateway, at the southeast corner of U.S. 40 and I-70.

Petrie Ross Ventures, a development company based in Annapolis, has plans to build a similar center, called Hagerstown Towne Centre, at the northeast corner of the intersection, just across I-70.

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Combined, the two centers would span more than 250 acres and could add as many as 31 retail stores, five restaurants, two department stores, two wholesale clubs, four hotels, one grocery store and two cinemas to the eastern edge of Hagerstown, according to preliminary sketches for the projects.

Plans for Hagerstown Gateway include a 133,000-square-foot department store, 120,000-square-foot grocery store, 175,000-square-foot home improvement store and 150,000-square-foot wholesale club store.

The center also would include more than 200,000 square feet of retail space, several restaurants, two hotels and a 46,000-square-foot cinema.

Hagerstown Towne Centre also would include a wholesale club, department store, cinema, home-improvement store and two hotels. Plans for that center also include as many as 13 retail stores and three office buildings.

Primary access for both centers would be on U.S. 40, and the developers of both properties have proposed road improvements to accommodate the heavy traffic that the centers are expected to generate.

"They are both significant proposals," said Michael C. Thompson, planning director for Washington County.

Faison will discuss its project Monday night with the Washington County Planning Commission during a preliminary consultation.

The Hagerstown City Council will discuss the Petrie Ross development Tuesday night during a work session.

Although both centers would be built on land in the county, they likely would be annexed into the City of Hagerstown in order to connect to city water and sewer. The cost of extending water and sewer lines would be paid by the developers.

Both developers are talking with city officials to work out annexation agreements.

The two developers will have to take different paths to get their projects approved because of how their properties are zoned, Thompson said.

Faison can move forward with an approval from the Washington County Planning Commission. The planning commission will not vote on the project Monday night.

Petrie Ross would need what is called "express approval" from the Washington County Commissioners if they want to start construction in the next five years because the land is not zoned to allow the project.

Faison will not have to get approval from the Washington County Commissioners.

Several officials said this week that they don't think both developers will go through with their plans.

Washington County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said it has been his understanding "all along" that only one center will be built.

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer agreed.

"I don't think we need two identical shopping centers there," Cromer said. "At this point, I think it's kind of a race to see who can get approved the quickest."

Timothy R. Troxell, executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said he does not think the current economy can support both centers.

"It will probably come down to whoever gets their plans approved and their tenants secured the quickest," Troxell said. "The race is on, I guess."

Howard Biel, senior managing director of Faison, said Thursday that the developer has letters of intent from "several major tenants," but would not say who those prospective tenants are.

Petrie Ross has not talked publicly about prospective tenants.

When asked whether the Petrie Ross proposal would affect Faison's project, Biel said, "I don't want to talk about that."

"We're moving forward," Biel said. "This is where the commercial project was destined to be."

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