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Merrifield Revival on the Way; Movies, Target & Hotel Slated

mosaicphotoGive it a little longer: eight new movie screens, a hotel, a Target and a natural foods grocery are coming to Merrifield.

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THE “MOSAIC DISTRICT,” with plans for a new movie theatre, hotel, Target and more, is busy undergoing construction in Merrifield. (Photo: News-Press)

Give it a little longer: eight new movie screens, a hotel, a Target and a natural foods grocery are coming to Merrifield.

The Lee Highway Multiplex Cinema is now long closed. For many months after the theater’s demise, the big movie board on Lee Highway in Merrifield held its ground, yet announced not one coming attraction.

Often jumbled, the letters spelled no film titles and the random numbers, left hanging throughout, indicated no start times. But recently, even the long standing sign disappeared, leaving no indication of the cinema’s existence.

Originally built on the site of an old drive-in, the once flourishing multiplex, with its 14 screens, deteriorated as time passed. By the last days of the cinema’s life, its biggest features included a worn carpet and old, uncomfortable chairs.

Even the safety of visiting the multiplex came into question, with rumors of fights occurring in the dimly lit parking lot. Neighbors avoided the theater, favoring newer, more family friendly venues like those located in Tyson’s Corner.

But recently a new banner popped up and replaced that long standing sad sign. It announced the coming of a new era in Merrifield’s development, a mixed use project by Edens and Avant named Mosaic by the company.

“Mosaic, as a name and as an experience, is representative of the diversity of the people living in and around Merrifield. Additionally, the development involves an assemblage of multiple land parcels as well as the mixed-use component to the real estate,” said Steve Boyle, managing director for Edens and Avant.

With regional offices in Boston, Bethesda, Atlanta, Miami and Columbia, S.C., Edens and Avant develops, owns and operates retail centers up and down the eastern United States.

The company originally contracted the Lee Highway site in September of 2004 with hopes to assist in reinvigorating Merrifield.

“Edens and Avant saw an opportunity to revitalize the area starting with 31 acres at the heart of Merrifield. The Merrifield Community has been lacking a central gathering place for quite some time,” said Boyle.

Now, in 2010 the large desolate area in the core of Merrifield is getting that much needed revitalization, along with a sense of community and a growing awareness of its unique location.

Location is definitely a component in Merrifield’s allure. It’s close to Washington D.C. The area, although not as well-known as Tyson’s Corner or Reston, is only a 15 minute drive to the District, when not dealing with rush hour traffic.

As for Metro, Merrifield is serviced by the Dunn Loring-Merrifield station, which is on the Orange Line.

While the region’s population continues to expand, Merrifield with its close proximity to D.C., easy access to mass transit and soon to be improved road network, may prove a tempting and popular location.

Improved road systems, according to the Office of Community Revitalization and Reinvestment (OCRR) in Fairfax County, are an integral aspect of the redevelopment.

The OCRR website states that “among the improvements are construction of two parks, the realignment and widening of Eskridge Road, the widening of Lee Highway, improvements to the Lee Highway/Gallows Road intersection and construction of a grid of streets.”

Beyond parks and roads, by incorporating tree lined sidewalks and numerous gathering places in the planned development, Edens and Avant is seeking to increase community interaction, while allowing a safe place for families to congregate.

New pedestrian walkways, public plazas and other amenities will work together in an effort to create not only a development, but a neighborhood. Mosaic is also dedicated to the use of green building.

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Construction continues in Merrifield for the new ‘Mosaic District.” (Photo: News-Press)

In fact, Mosaic is participating in the U.S. Green Building Council’s pilot program for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Neighborhood Development.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) website “The LEED for Neighborhood Development Rating System integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design.

LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a development’s location and design meet accepted high levels of environmentally responsible, sustainable development. LEED for Neighborhood Development is a collaboration among USGBC, Congress for the New Urbanism, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.”

Mosaic will include environmentally responsible office, retail, hotel and residential elements in an integrated design. Leasing for the project is already well underway.

“Opening in Fall 2012, the first phase of the project is more than two-thirds leased and includes a mix of 400,000 square feet of both national and local retailers, an eight-screen art house cinema, 150 room boutique hotel, 60,000 square feet of Class A office space and 114 urban town homes,” said Boyle.

The development’s anchor occupants include Target, the Angelika Film Center and Café and Mom’s Organic Market.

The new Target in the plan is said to differ from the existing Target already on Rte. 50 in many ways. For one, it will occupy the entire fourth level of the primary retail building at Mosaic. It will utilize glass cubing and four-story-tall entrances, which will bookmark the two ends of the new store. There will also be primary pedestrian access from the half-acre park at the center of the Mosaic development.

With a length that will stretch along the top level above an array of smaller retailers, it will face a new main street called District Avenue. The store will be approximately 160,000 square feet with dedicated parking directly underneath the top floor shopping level, while hidden from street view.

Target is a well-liked and known addition, yet each anchor store is interesting in its own right, including the new theater. First opening in New York City’s Soho district in 1989, the Angelika Film Center and Café plays a mix of independent films. It is considered an art house theater and is said to be the most successful of its type in the U.S.

As for groceries, move over Whole Foods, Mom’s is on a mission. Just part of their mission statement illustrates their belief in organic and local foods.

“We choose organic products whenever possible. We stock an overall higher percentage of organic items than any other major grocery chain, and sell only 100 percent USDA Certified Organic Produce.

We buy local whenever possible. This helps reduce the amount of fuel used to transport products, supports small businesses, and boosts our local economy.”

The name of the incoming hotel is yet to be announced.

Even in tough economic times, Merrifield seems not only set to entertain and house the community, but is an area overdue for expansion and rejuvenation.

“Despite the current economic climate, this development has received incredible interest and support from both the the retail and residential community,” said Boyle.

Look for the first parcel of land, located just off Lee Highway, which will hold the primary retail building to be completed by the fall of 2012.

Construction for the area set to feature the hotel, theater and grocery store, is scheduled to begin in March of 2011.

As for the residential component of the project, townhouses and multi-family housing, the time line is yet to be announced.

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