As residents wait for a grocery store and planners work on the master plan around Ten Mile Creek, two outlet malls are competing to call the upcounty community of Clarksburg their new home.
The Peterson Cos. has announced plans to build a Tanger Outlet Center on its 98 acres on the east side of Interstate 270, along Md. 121, known locally as the former Miles-Coppola property.
Less than a mile away on the west side of the interstate, just south of Md. 121, the owner of another plot, Adventist HealthCare, is considering bringing a competing outlet center by Simon Property Group to that slice of Clarksburg, in what is known as Cabin Branch.
“It’s a huge win for Clarksburg, for Montgomery County and for Maryland,” Council Vice President Craig L. Rice said of the dueling outlets. “It’s great because it just shows how many folks really are vested in seeing that Clarksburg is a burgeoning area, a great place to set up shop.”
Residents are not as optimistic.
“We’re hearing lots of promises here, lots of promises, but what we’ve seen over the last 20 years in Clarksburg is nobody delivers on their promises,” said Melane Kinney Hoffmann of Livable Clarksburg, a newly formed civic group.
It’s been years since Clarksburg residents were promised village-style retail similar to Gaithersburg’s Kentlands and Rockville’s King Farm.
Yet, they still have to drive out of town to buy groceries, their town center remains unfinished, and development has all but come to a standstill.
As the outlet malls battle it out, Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown said the competition could put the brakes on other Clarksburg development.
Dueling outlet malls in Clarksburg could potentially hold up growth if the community waits to see which one moves forward, Rice said.
For the community as a whole, however, having two outlet centers vying to move to Clarksburg is a win, he said.
Residents don’t necessarily agree. In fact, most think an outlet mall is a terrible idea, Kinney Hoffmann said.
“People aren’t looking for an outlet mall. They’re looking for a grocery store, a dry cleaner, a place to get your hair cut, a place to pick up a sandwich,” she said. “For them to go out talking about the Tanger mall is really just an intimidation tactic. They’re trying to discourage people. They’re trying to make us think that it’s a done deal.”
Traffic congestion and unfulfilled promises of transit further complicate the issue, as Clarksburg’s already clogged roads cannot support more development, she said.
But if Clarksburg is to have a shopping center, Adventist’s parcel makes more sense, she said.
Rice said both sites have advantages and disadvantages.
Ron Kaplan, co-managing principal of McLean, Va.-based Streetscape Partners, said his company has teamed with New England Development and Simon Property Group to develop an upscale outlet center called Clarksburg Premium Outlets at Cabin Branch on the Adventist site, according to a statement provided by Ray Weiss of the Streetscape/New England/Simon team. The statement said 1,500 people could be hired.
Part of the 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan’s third stage, the Adventist site is zoned for mixed-use planned development, said Area 3 Chief John Carter of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Montgomery Planning Department.
But Rice said having Peterson’s project in the queue could prove a challenge to an outlet mall on Adventist’s site.
Peterson’s development is in the master plan’s fourth stage.
Last fall, Montgomery County halted stage four when it authorized amending the Clarksburg Master Plan to address environmental concerns at one of its last pristine waterways, Ten Mile Creek.
At issue is reconciling future development of the final stage of the master plan with the water quality of Ten Mile Creek, which has suffered degradation from nearby development.
Environmental review has put Peterson into a holding pattern and the master plan amendment could make or break its plans, but Taylor Chess, senior vice president of retail for Peterson, said he feels confident they can work within environmental constraints and move forward with the project.
Peterson and Tanger have been working for 15 months on plans to bring an outlet center to Clarksburg, and the firm has already invested “substantial sums” into the project, Chess said.
Adventist HealthCare’s negotiations with Simon came to light in January. Its plans to build a hospital in Clarksburg ended in 2011 when the Maryland Health Care Commission unanimously selected Holy Cross Hospital’s plan to build a $202 million hospital in Germantown over Adventist HealthCare’s proposal for a $177 million hospital in Clarksburg.
“Adventist HealthCare has had discussions with residents, the business community and Montgomery County about selling a portion — approximately 40 acres — of our Clarksburg land off Interstate 270,” Adventist spokesman Tom Grant wrote in a January 2013 email.
Adventist did not return requests for additional comment.
Chess kept mostly mum about the potential retail competition less than a mile away, saying only, “I guess good ideas, obviously, get attention.”
As planned, the Tanger outlets will be about 450,000 square feet of a mixed-use development, along with restaurants, hotels and multi-family housing, Chess said.
Immediately adjacent to Clarksburg’s historic area, Chess said Peterson’s development has the potential to bring needed growth to Clarksburg’s town center.
“The advantage of our project for the rest of town center is that it brings the critical mass that will drive visitation to the area, thus improving the historic area and providing, hopefully, visitation and spurring development,” he said.