Plug pulled on Ashland outlet mall

The plot that was slated for the Outlets at Richmond project. (Michael Schwartz)

After nearly a decade of fits and starts, plans for an outlet mall in Ashland have been officially scrapped.

A representative of California-based developer Craig Realty confirmed Thursday that the Outlets at Richmond, a long-anticipated 350,000-square-foot retail center planned on 43 acres near Lakeridge Parkway and Lewistown Road, will not be built.

“At this point, given the transition in retail as an industry itself, the owner has decided to not pursue the outlets,” said Kay Pangraze, Craig Realty’s local project manager.

The tale of the Ashland outlets dates back to 2009, when a group including Water Street Development had land across Lewistown Road under contract for an outlet mall. That plan would have put the mall on the same side of the road as the Bass Pro Shops-anchored Winding Brook development.

That deal never closed, and four years later Craig Realty bought the current site for $5.79 million from Northlake Land Investments, an entity tied to local developer Gibson Wright.

Over the next few years, Craig Realty – which has developed over a dozen outlet centers nationwide in California, Texas, Colorado, Utah, Mississippi and Wisconsin – claimed it had leased out 15 percent of the proposed mall’s space and was waiting to break ground until it hit the 50 percent lease mark. Ground was never officially broken.

Meanwhile businesses continued to be drawn to the area, particularly on the Winding Brook side. Restaurants, retailers and a hotel opened, some saying they were drawn by the expected arrival of the outlet mall.

Digital billboards planned to promote the outlets along Interstate 95 led to a lawsuit that went to the Virginia Supreme Court in 2016.

Craig Realty’s decision comes in a time of upheaval for traditional retail. Retail chains, malls and brick-and-mortar stores countrywide continue to evolve in the face of Amazon and other online sellers.

The Richmond region has seen plenty of movement in recent months as a result. Payless Shoes, Bebe and Radioshack are closing outposts in town as part of mass closures, while Toys ‘R’ Us and Gymboree, the latter of which is closing four local stores, have filed for bankruptcy in Richmond federal court.

Stony Point Fashion Park is amid a $50 million renovation designed to draw more visitors and the long-struggling Regency Square mall is undergoing a massive redevelopment.

That hasn’t stopped outlet malls from launching, including the Norfolk Premium Outlets in Hampton Roads, which opened this summer. Craig Realty’s website lists other outlet developments planned in Hawaii, Illinois and Washington State.

As for the future of Craig Realty’s 43 acres in Ashland – which the county most recently assessed at $5.3 million – Pangraze said the company is “looking at a variety of ways to repurpose it.”

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5 Comments on "Plug pulled on Ashland outlet mall"

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Sandi Crawford

Part of me is relieved…while the other part is saying, Ut, Oh…what’s coming next!? This area really needs a Winner! With school districts up in the air and Virginia Center Mall plans still not solidified….It makes this Realtor concerned with existing housing values. There is a shift coming in the Market, and this area desperately needs an anchor for the storm.

Ed Christina

People need to figure out a way to get high speed rail into Ashland, and then this problem will solve itself.

Michael Dodson

Even if retail industry was been booming and malls were going up everywhere this sstill wouldn’t work. We are not big enough as metro area to support outlets, we are too close to the other outlet mall (especially after National Harbor and Norfolk mean 4 outlets within 100 miles) and the other area outlet malls have attractions closer to them that draw in tourists. Who’s was gonna stop on their drive on 95 simply to go to an outlet mall in Hanover when there probably one when reach your destination.

Bert Hapablap

This is not a surprise. Building brick and mortar retail nowadays isn’t a good idea. Internet sales continue to rise and the profitability isn’t there having a physical building and sales people. If you’re selling products that can be sold on the internet, you’re better off with a website and a warehouse than a store front. I suspect the site will end up being another warehouse like Owens & Minor, Creative, Amazon, which are all right down the street.

Steven Cohen

This land is actually ripe for some type of retail-mized use development. With its close proximity to 95 and travelers heading south/north it could be a great opporrunity to capture 95 travelers and growing the areas local economic base. The art of the deal with the site’s future lies in the vision of the developer who needs to now how to visualize and developed the correct balance of attraction and revenue base to sustain long term success.