|A rendering of the shopping center after remodeling.|
“We want to create a warm, more inviting environment,” said Don McIlvaine, the general manager of Ravensworth Properties LLC. Ravensworth Shopping Center is just outside the beltway at Braddock Road and Port Royal Road.
The Safeway isn’t being well-maintained, so its lease won’t be renewed when it expires Feb. 28, McIlvaine said. He tried to get Whole Foods to move into that spot, but that didn’t work out. He calls Lotte (pronounced low-tay) a great store that will meet the needs of the surrounding community and urged local residents to try some of the more unusual but delicious products sold there, such as Chinese bitter melons and aloe juice.
Pizza Bazzano will also not have its lease renewed, and Smith & Clarkson Deli will expand into that space, he said. The lease for the 7-Eleven expires in February and the renewal negotiations aren’t going well, so that store might leave as well.
A new Kids First swimming instruction facility will go into the vacant corner where the post office used to be before it moved to a smaller space nearby.
The other existing tenants—including Kilroy’s, the Swiss Bakery, the Boy Scout store, Rite Aid, and DQ—will stay, McIlvaine said. He would like to see a national chain restaurant move into one of the vacant spots.
Construction should start in the middle of March 2015 and should take six months to complete, said Rob Seidel, a principal with Stewart Commercial Realty Services. There won’t be any public hearings, as the project doesn’t involve rezoning or a zoning special exception.
Seidel said the renovation includes more outdoor seating, improved LED lighting, improved landscaping, new brick columns, new signs, new benches, a mansard-style roof design, and a tower element where the two sections come together. The colors for the redesigned shopping center will be olive, bone, burnt orange, and cream, and a wood-like synthetic material will be used.
The footprint of the shopping center won’t change, but “it’s going to look and feel like a new shopping center,” Seidel said. The project is expected to cost nearly $7 million.
The Lotte store will be about 30,000 square feet, the same size as Safeway. Lotte, a family-owned grocery company that started in Rockville about 40 years ago, specializes in fresh produce, fresh seafood, a large variety of Asian food items, and low prices, said Alvin Lee, the director of Lotte Plaza. The company has 10 stores in Virginia and Maryland.
Unlike most international supermarkets that are dimly lit and dirty, Lee said the newer Lotte stores are bright and modern. The Fairfax Lotte, one of the oldest stores in the chain, will be remodeled next year.
Most of the international items in Lotte stores are from south and southeastern Asia. There are some products from Latin America and the Middle East, but shoppers won’t find gourmet items from Europe, Lee said.
He told the audience of mostly white older residents that there will plenty of the standard products they can find in any grocery store, like paper towels, bread, and milk.
Among the low prices Lee rattled off: live lobsters for $2.99 a pound, five cucumbers for $1, and two pints of blueberries for 99 cents. When asked how Lotte is able to set such low prices, Lee acknowledged that the store charges a bit more for mainstream packaged items and has less variety in those categories. Unlike Safeway, Lotte isn’t unionized.