Owens applauds the developer's plans for a Gambrills Wegmans

April 28, 2006|By JULIE SCHARPER | JULIE SCHARPER,SUN REPORTER

Wegmans, a high-end supermarket chain featuring gourmet foods, sushi and cappuccino bars and artisanal cheeses, signed a lease for its first location in Anne Arundel County, a developer announced yesterday.

The proposed 140,000-square- foot store, only the second in Maryland, will be located in the upcoming expansion to the Village at Waugh Chapel in Gambrills, said Brian J. Gibbons, president of Greenberg Gibbons Commercial Corp.

County Executive Janet S. Owens, who has tried for years to lure Wegmans to Anne Arundel, applauded the deal.

"I am thrilled," Owens said.

She said the deal is a "testament" to the changing landscape of western Anne Arundel County and to the ways the county is emerging as a rival to Montgomery and Howard counties for high-end development.

West County is expected to undergo a large upscale transformation as thousands of high-paying jobs at Fort Meade pour in over the next decade.

"The West County is a tremendously emerging market, a terrific area," said Gibbons. "We can't think of a better anchor for the project."

Gibbons, who developed the Hunt Valley Wegmans, said executives from the Rochester, N.Y.-based chain approached him several months ago about opening another location.

"We've been very, very pleased with the success of the Hunt Valley store," said Jo Natale, a spokeswoman for the grocery chain. "We have worked with this developer before, and it was a logical next step for us."

The new Wegmans will feature a large first-floor retail space and a 250-seat restaurant on the mezzanine level, Gibbons said.

Wegmans operates 70 stores throughout Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Virginia.

Gibbons estimated that the new store would bring 700 jobs to the county. Fortune magazine has consistently ranked Wegmans at the top of its annual list of the nation's best employers.

Construction on Village South, the companion development to the Village at Waugh Chapel complex, is set to begin in the fall of 2007, Gibbons said. It will feature 150,000 feet of office space and 220 condominiums for seniors at the intersection of Waugh Chapel Road and Route 3.

But Torrey C. Jacobsen Jr., president of the Greater Crofton Council, pointed out that the Village already has a grocery store.

"How does an upscale grocery store next to a Safeway make any sense?" he said. "They're going to build ghost towns if they keep building shopping centers with the kind of stores we already have."

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Phillip McGowan contributed to this article.

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