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Fair Oaks Mall sign (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Two of Fairfax County’s longstanding JCPenney stores recently changed hands, a move that could set the stage for their malls to transition to more mixed-use environments.

Announced in September, The Meridian Group — the Bethesda-based developer behind The Boro in Tysons — partnered with D.C. real estate firm Martin-Diamond Properties to acquire five JCPenneys, including the anchor stores at Fair Oaks Mall and Springfield Town Center.

No changes are immediately expected at either store, but Meridian Senior Associate Stephen Garibaldi said in a press release that the company was drawn to the stores because they’re located in areas “ideal for mixed-use density.”

The firms spent $53 million to buy all five properties, which represent a total of nearly 900,000 square feet of retail space.

“We believe over the long-term these locations will continue to be a center of commercial activity but will see outperformance with the introduction of more mixed use,” Garibaldi told the Washington Business Journal. “While we have nothing in the works currently, if the time comes, we look forward to playing a part in that transformation in collaboration with the adjacent sites.”

JCPenney has sold or shuttered dozens of retail stores since filing for bankruptcy in May 2020. The Fair Oaks and Springfield locations were transferred to a bankruptcy trustee last year.

Both the shopping centers where the stores are located have been eyed for redevelopment for years, though neither project has advanced much beyond the planning and zoning stages.

Springfield Town Center got approved for up to 2,736 residential units and 2 million square feet of commercial development back in 2009, but a new hotel proposed this summer represented the first concrete effort to bring that plan to fruition. The application is currently scheduled to go in front of the Fairfax County Planning Commission on Nov. 30.

Previously known as Springfield Mall, the town center underwent a major renovation in 2012 where its JCPenney was one of just three stores left standing.

As for Fair Oaks, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors amended the comprehensive plan in November 2020 to permit approximately 3.1 million square feet of development on 133 acres at the western corner of I-66 and Route 50.

Retail should go from the main use on the site to 20-25% of the total development at full buildout, with residential, office, hotel and other uses becoming more prominent, the plan says, stating that retail typically generates “a high number of vehicular trips to and from a site” and should be reduced.

The Fair Oaks redevelopment plan was enabled by a reduction in parking requirements for the county’s regional malls, but advocates have said the area’s transportation network needs more changes to make it accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit.

Meridian confirmed to FFXnow that it has “nothing in the works currently” at either Fair Oaks or Springfield Town Center.

“Numerous stakeholders have previously advanced plans re-envisioning the overall mall developments…that would introduce significant mixed-use components to augment the existing retail,” Garibaldi said in a statement. “We are excited by the opportunity to engage with the community and other stakeholders if any of these plans move forward.”

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