Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2007

Chamber members support plans for Town Center core

But wish it could be built sooner to give added support to existing Clarksburg businesses

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Members of the Clarksburg Chamber of Commerce registered their support for the plans for the Clarksburg Town Center retail core, but they hope the center can be built as soon as possible.

The sooner more businesses come to the area, the better their businesses will fare, they said.

Douglas Delano, vice president of operations for developer Newland Communities, presented the basic plans for the retail area to chamber members last week. The plans were filed with the county Planning Board in April.

No details are available on what tenants might occupy the storefronts, but Delano expects a grocery store and 20 to 42 tenants such as a coffeehouse, restaurants and convenience-type businesses.

‘‘The general support and interest this group showed towards the Clarksburg Town Center project is very much appreciated,” he said of the chamber. ‘‘It displays that overall, it is a positive thing for the business community.”

The revised retail plan is part of the compliance plan the developer was required to submit after Clarksburg Town Center was found to have hundreds of site plan violations in 2005.

Gordon Taylor, owner of Upcounty Fine Wine and Beer in the Highlands of Clarksburg shopping center, which is just 1,000 feet away from the Clarksburg Town Center retail area, saw the revised plans for the first time Tuesday.

‘‘It does a really good job of capturing the vision of a walking, neo-traditional town,” he said of the plan. ‘‘If feels like it is something that, as a consumer, you can see yourself spending time there.”

Taylor said he was also impressed by the way parking was addressed and how well the plan integrates pedestrian and vehicular traffic. A two- or three- story garage will be located near the grocery store.

The plans for the retail center significantly changed as a result of the mediated deal between Newland and the Clarksburg Town Center Advisory Committee, the group that uncovered the site plan violations two years ago. The deal will cost the developer and five builders $15 million.

Final site plans for the Clarksburg Town Center housing development were submitted to the Planning Board in the spring along with the retail plans. Delano expects the plans to be approved by the Planning Board by the end of the year and the Clarksburg Town Center’s retail core will be on the ground by the summer of 2009.

‘‘I would rather things go faster, but tonight has proven that people have taken extra time and the plan that is going to come out is going to be well worth the time that has been taken to this point,” Taylor said. ‘‘It seems like a very strong plan and now we hope that it goes as quickly as possible to fruition.”

Newland announced in April that Florida-based Regency would no longer be the developer of the retail district. With Regency’s departure, Giant Food dropped plans to anchor the retail area with a more than 65,000-square-foot store on one level.

The new plan shrinks the grocery store to 51,000 square feet; however, the store could end up being 65,000 square feet if built on more than one level.

No new tenant has been signed for the grocery store site, Delano said.

Viney Saini, owner of Clarksburg Orthodontics who has operated his business in a condominium above the Highlands of Clarksburg since March 2006, said he is excited about the arrival of the Clarksburg Town Center’s retail core.

‘‘We want to have people move to Clarksburg,” Saini said. ‘‘Those people have to be sold on to something. You have to have a selling point.”

Pat Darby, president of the Chamber of Commerce, was happy that members of his organization were welcoming of the Clarksburg Town Center retail core and did not worry about the added competition. He also said the delay of the construction of the retail core is a big concern.

‘‘In general, from a business standpoint, the only way a town, city or municipality can survive and prosper is to have successful businesses,” Darby said. ‘‘That is a measure of how well a town is doing — by how many businesses are there.”