Midlothian Town Center On the Way, May Include Aldi

By Michael Buettner, Chesterfield Observer

A local developer is launching a series of community meetings this week in preparation for moving forward with a long-planned shopping center just west of the Village of Midlothian that might be targeted for the first Chesterfield location of a fast-growing German discount grocery chain.

The Midlothian Town Center mixed-use project is near Salisbury at the northwest corner of Midlothian Turnpike and Winterfield Road. More than a decade in the making, the project received zoning approval from the Board of Supervisors in 2004. It was later split in two, separating the residential housing and retail/office development.

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The original developer, James Doran Co., is currently working with the county planning department to finalize the site plan for the Midlothian Town Center Apartments. Now, Blackwood Development is preparing to move forward with the retail portion, as well as an additional 250 residential units.

According to Andrew Condlin, an attorney with Roth Doner Jackson Gibbons Condlin who is representing Blackwood, the two developers are working together “to create a joint development of the two properties to retain the pedestrian and use connections between the properties as was originally approved.”

In an email, Condlin said Blackwood is planning to limit commercial uses to a total of 100,000 square feet, just one-third of the space allowed under the existing zoning. The preliminary site design includes a “boulevard main street … and a roundabout as a central focus,” he said.

The plan calls for a screen of trees and other landscaping along the side facing Midlothian Turnpike, along with “architectural and landscape features that create pedestrian pathways, walkways and open areas for public gathering space,” Condlin said.

The preliminary site design shows spaces for restaurants, general commercial businesses, retail shops and one large retailer. While Condlin did not provide any names of specific tenants, the real estate firm that’s marketing the property to prospective tenants is hinting that the large retailer might be discount grocer Aldi.

A brochure on the website of commercial real estate broker Cushman & Wakefield/ Thalhimer shows Aldi’s logo superimposed on the building that’s labeled “Retail” on Blackwood’s site design.

Pete Waldbauer, one of the Thalhimer agents representing Midlothian Town Center, referred questions about the project to Marc Greenberg, vice president of Blackwood. Greenberg was traveling this week and could not be reached for comment.

Erica Hoey, a spokeswoman for Aldi’s public relations agency, said she couldn’t confirm the Midlothian location.

Aldi opened its first two stores in the Richmond metropolitan area earlier this year, one in Henrico County and the other in Colonial Heights. The company reportedly plans to open two locations in Richmond, one of them off Forest Hill Avenue near Chippenham Parkway.

At least one possible location in Chesterfield has been considered, at the intersection of Robious Road and Mall Drive, but the company has not yet confirmed any locations here.

Aldi touts its low prices, which it says it achieves partly through promoting in-house brands and partly through cost-cutting measures like not accepting credit cards (only debit and electronic benefits transfer cards) and charging customers for bags. The company avoids paying employees to chase shopping carts around the parking lot by charging customers a 25-cent deposit to use a cart, then refunding it when the cart is returned to its rack.

The company has said it plans to open 650 more stores in the U.S. over the next few years, bringing the total number to almost 2,000. At 16,000-17,000 square feet, those stores are far smaller than the newest stores opened by chains such as Kroger and Martin’s Food Market, which both have stores near the town center development.

Whatever tenants end up in the new shopping center, the developer will be required to meet already established requirements for architecture, building materials and other features, noted Peppy Jones, president of the Village of Midlothian Coalition.

Those standards were set as part of the 2004 zoning case, which included a “pattern book” of materials and styles, Jones said. “Whatever gets built there is supposed to go by that pattern book,” he said.

Jones said his group hasn’t been provided details of the new proposal yet, so he couldn’t comment on the plans. The developer’s representatives will be meeting with the coalition this week to share information, he said.