WALDORF -- A warehouse membership store and a discount department store will be the newest additions to a rapidly growing commercial district in this area of Charles County, about 20 miles south of Washington.
The 108,000-square-foot Pace Membership Warehouse store on Route 301 is to open Nov. 22 and a 114,000-square-foot Wal-Mart discount department store will open on another Route 301 site in January. Both are part of a relatively brisk retail development market.
Rapid growth in the still predominantly rural Charles County -- the population went from 47,000 in 1970 to 101,0000 in 1990 -- and the success of recently opened major retail developments appear to be keeping commercial developers interested in Waldorf.
"We take a good look at individual areas," said Kristin Stehben, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores in Bentonville, Ark. When Wal-Mart decided to expand into Maryland, she said, Waldorf was one of the first four communities chosen.
And while other Pace outlets in the region moved into existing buildings, the Waldorf location is the first newly built store, said Thomas J. Mulrenin, project manager for the development.
As soon as tenants sign leases, he said, another 28,000 square feet, expected to include a restaurant, service station and bank, will be added to Pace.
A third major development, a 502,000-square-foot strip retail center called the Festival at Waldorf, was also built in the area, by Trammell Crow Co. It is now about 88 percent occupied.
The success of the St. Charles Towne Center, a 1.1-million-square-foot shopping mall about a mile south of Waldorf, may be helping to persuade retailers and developers of the value of locating in the region.
The mall, developed by Melvin Simon & Associates, opened a year ago.
Charles, St. Mary's and Calvert counties, sandwiched between Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River, make up rural Southern Maryland. Residents used to have to go more than 30 miles to Annapolis or Springfield, Va., to shop.
Now Waldorf draws not only those shoppers, but also people from Prince George's County to the north and Virginia to the south.