One of the most outstanding examples of revitalization along the Route 1 corridor was officially dedicated Tuesday morning with the traditional ribbon cutting and accolades from political, business and civic leaders. Mount Vernon Plaza, located on the Lee District side of "The Highway," at the intersection with Boswell Avenue, was reborn.
One of the highlights of the ceremony held under a tent in a portion of the center's new parking area was the presence of the man that created the original Mount Vernon Plaza in the 1960's, Sam Rosenstein. A New England textile manufacturer turned shopping center developer, Rosenstein gave birth to a variety of malls throughout the Washington Metropolitan area.
"I can't believe this is the old Mount Vernon Plaza. I'm so happy it turned out so well," he said in response to being specifically recognized by Don Wood, president and CEO, Federal Realty Investment Trust, redevelopers of the new mall. He was also presented with an etched recognition plaque for his years of leadership and vision.
Acquiring the old, tattered dual centers in 2002, Federal Realty based their recreation on two specific goals, new tenants and new design, according to Emily Groome, development manager for the project. "We needed to do this from the inside out and federal Realty made that happen," she told the dignitaries and guests.
Groome particularly praised Lee District Supervisor Dana Kauffman and his staff "for their help over the past four years in making this project happen." Kauffman acknowledged her recognition by stating, "You should consider this your first project on the Route 1 corridor."
Federal Realty's approach was to build two parallel rows of shops to form a main street into the center. New parking, plantings, facades and signage effectively blend the two former centers into a single retail destination.
"The success you see on Richmond Highway is an overnight success that took 25 years. And, this result proves it was well worth the $30 million investment," Kauffman said.
"I have seen the full range of companies involved in this type development. But the details I've seen your staff pay attention to will make this a success. Local government creates the stage on which the private sector dances," he said.
Joining Kauffman at the podium were Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerald Hyland, State Senator Linda T. "Toddy" Puller (D-36), and State Delegates Kristen Amundson (D-44) and Mark Sickles (D-43). "Although this is in Lee District, Dana and I work together constantly to revitalize the Richmond Highway corridor," Hyland said.
"I wonder if Federal Realty had an insight to the BRAC report. This is a time when Route 1 will really be changing and growing. It's very nice to see the corridor becoming tony," said Puller in referring to the Base Realignment and Closure Report which calls for an additional 20,000 plus personnel to be transferred to Fort Belvoir by 2011.
Barbara Sullivan, past president, Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce, presented Federal Realty representatives with the Chamber's Potomac Star Business Award. She was joined by Rick Neel, president, Southeast Fairfax Development Corporation, who announced, "Federal Realty has sent a very important message to the investment world with this project."
As noted by Wood, "Nothing gets done without a good team," citing the example set by Rosenstein 40 years ago. "Washington is a market like no other in the nation. About one third of Federal Realty's investments are in the Washington area. The commercial side of development does a lot to shape the community around it," Wood said.
Headquartered in Rockville,MD, Federal Realty owns a high quality portfolio of properties in the retail sector. They specialize in the ownership, management, development, and redevelopment of those retail assets. Their properties are primarily located in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and California.
"The new Mount Vernon Plaza brings new businesses, quality retail, and the type of pedestrian-friendly design that sets the standard for future development along the highway," according to Kauffman. Following the various comments the entire group participated in the ceremonial ribbon cutting with Kauffman wielding the oversize scissors and Rosenstein by his side.