by Emily Guerrero, Editor in Chief
The rebranding that will soon transform the “lower level” of Tackett’s Mill into the “Lakeside” level is more than wordplay, according to the shopping center’s Chief Financial Officer Nancy Kyme. She said the management is committed to restoring this “Gateway to Lake Ridge” to its former glory. She outlined this vision during a Feb. 20 meeting of the Occoquan Lake Ridge Civic Association (OLRCA) at the McCoart building.
One of the most immediate changes will be the addition of a farmers market, managed by Smart Markets (interested vendors can find application instructions online). Starting this May and running through October, the market will take place each Friday from 3:00 to 7:00 pm. Kyme said the timing is meant to be convenient to commuters as they end their week. Produce, meat and baked goods will be available for purchase. OLRCA President Bryanna Altman said that patrons can expect “quality products.”
Tackett’s Mill has been working with the association to gather community feedback on what types of activities and businesses that residents would like to see on the Lakeside. Top suggestions included (in order of popularity):
- Independently-owned restaurants
- Performance Space (Jazz Club, Comedy)
- Juice Bar
As for specific businesses, Trader Joe’s got the most votes, with over 200 requests. Kyme said that the company had approached Tackett’s Mill about locating there at one point, but that an exclusive lease agreement with Safeway prevents another grocer from coming in. Altman noted that efforts to get the popular chain to come to Prince William continue, with Supervisor Mike May contacting the company in 2013 and a “Bring Trader Joe’s to Woodbridge” Facebook page encouraging fans to fill out location request forms online.
Most of the resident feedback seemed to lean towards places that would offer a unique customer experience. Farm-to-table, microbrewery and coffee bars were all mentioned. Rudy Ray of Springwoods said that he’d like to the Lakeside develop a feel that is sophisticated yet quaint. “I’d like to listen to some very good jazz, [get]a good glass of wine,” he said.
Kyme shared that the center has applied for an ArtPlace America grant. If awarded, the funds would be used to transform a vacant, 5,000 square foot building into a “mini Torpedo Factory.” She said that the space could accommodate approximately eight studios, a gallery and several classrooms. This would become a cornerstone of turning the center into a place of art, which would in turn attract people to the shopping center. Other possibilities include live performances, public art projects and outdoor sculptures. Kyme said the goal would be to “see all the arts supported there.”
Citing several cities that have successfully used art to revitalize neglected areas, she added, “We want to see this become quite lively.” She added that this new focus will raise property values and the quality of life for all in Lake Ridge.
The meeting also focused on some of the challenges that lie ahead. These include improving signage, the cost of maintaining the colonial architecture and rallying community support for this once beloved mixed-use center.
“People in our area want a center of community. I can’t think of a more ideal place for that to happen than Tackett’s Mill,” said Altman.
[divider]Emily Guerrero is a communications consultant and freelance writer who serves as editor in chief of PWL. She is a longtime resident and avid supporter of the Prince William area. She owns Mightier Than, and may or may not manage a Facebook campaign to bring Trader Joe’s to the community…