Clarksburg Premium Outlets Grand Opening Heralds New Era for UpCounty Retail, Snarls Traffic on I-27
A little over one year after the groundbreaking, the new 90-plus store Clarksburg Premium Outlet center opened on Clarksburg Road with much fanfare on Thursday morning.
The outlet mall, which will breathe new life into the retail business in the UpCounty area of Montgomery County, has been heralded as a world-class shopping destination. It is the newest outlet mall opened in Maryland by Simon Premium Outlets; it joins Arundel Mills Marketplace, Arundel Mills, Hagerstown Premium Outlets, Queenstown Premium Outlets, and St. Charles Towne Center in Waldorf.
“There is a very good reason why Simon Premium Outlets, New England Development, and Rockville-based Streetscape Partners are once again betting on Maryland and Montgomery County,” said Benjamin Wu, the Deputy Secretary of Commerce for the State of Maryland at the opening ceremonies for the new mall. “It is because the job growth in Maryland. Since the beginning of this year, Maryland has ranked number seventh in the country in job growth. Our unemployment is at 4.2 percent, which dropped a full percentage point in a year-and-a-half, additional Maryland ranks number one in the country for per-capita income. That means Marylanders have jobs and have money. Which makes for a successful equation for retailers.”
“It is not just the shopping that excites me. When we think about the economic impact of a project like this we think about the jobs — the 500 construction jobs, and the 800 to 1,000 full-time and part-time retail jobs at this shopping center. It will also have a great impact on Maryland tourism, the opening of this beautiful development is another great way to attract more visitors to our state.”
The mall is segmented into five key areas, what General Manager Michael Mitchroney called an east promenade and a west promenade, which each have an upper “street” and a lower “street” of stores, and the Market Hall area.
Of the 94 stores, 80 stores were able to are open for business as soon as the ribbon was cut. About half of the currently vacant stores will be opening over the next two months, and Simon is hard at work to fill the short list of vacancies in the facility. More the 20 of the current retailers at the outlet center are exclusive to the Montgomery County market.
The 392,000 square foot, the two-story shopping center will also boast a Market Hall; a contemporary and upscale community space featuring covered walkways and spacious courtyards; exterior escalators and elevators; landscaping; fountains; fireplaces and custom art. Moreover, Clarksburg Premium Outlets will be Simon’s second LEED-certified Premium Outlets Center, incorporating a number of energy-saving measures.
The mall is filled with fountains and waterfalls, and large gas fireplace where shoppers to warm up on cool autumn and winter evenings, as well as a playground for smaller children to blow off some pent up energy while mom shops for shoes.
Shortly after the ribbon cutting, lines were forming outside of some retailers. The longest line was formed in front the Tory Burch store, which sells high women’s handbags and footwear. Another line was seen at the UGG store.
“This project will have a triple bottom line for the county,” said Congressmen from the 6th District John Delaney. “It will create jobs. It has already created a lot of jobs in building it. There will be 800 to 1,000 ongoing retail jobs. It will put Clarksburg on the map because as we know, people travel great distances to go to outlet malls. This will become one of the great tourism destinations in the State of Maryland. It is a great reminder of why we have to continue to invest in this part of the county, particularly that big road right behind us, I-270 which we should be widening and extending so that projects of like this will continue to come to Montgomery County, the State of Maryland and this part of the county in particular.”
However, some local residents have been unhappy with the prospect of the increased traffic which will result from having a tourism shopping destination so close to a growing community with deep rural roots already dealing with traffic issues.
“I want to start by thanking the Clarksburg community,” said Craig Rice, District 2 Councilmember representing Clarksburg and the UpCounty, during the ribbon cutting ceremony. “I know this wasn’t easy and I know there are going to be some bumps ahead to adjust to something that is such a large regional draw.”
Many residents are concerned that local streets might become traffic nightmares are bargain shoppers attempt to avoid back-ups on I-270 and begin to traverse secondary streets to get to the outlets.
Indeed, less than an hour after the grand opening northbound I-270 was back up for two-and-half miles from Exit 18 at Clarksburg Road to just north of Exit 17 at Father Hurley Boulevard in Germantown with shoppers heading to the outlets. Meanwhile, the parking lot at outlets had filled up by 11:30 am and shoppers were being re-routed to the auxiliary parking lot at High Point Farm on Rt. 355, which is almost two miles from the mall. Shoppers could then take a shuttle bus to the outlets.
“One of the biggest concerns is traffic,” said Capt. David Gillespie, Commander of the 5th District – Montgomery County Police Department. “Getting people in here and out of here safely and efficiently. We planned for the opening weekend. However, a lot of the construction on the roads and overpasses are not completed and we don’t know what impact that will have until we see what the numbers of cars are and how the traffic flows.”
Rice told Germantown Pulse, “We understand that there will be impacts on the community, but what is missing is the greater impacts, such as local small business being able to do business with the larger entities here at the mall. It means folks that were unemployed or underemployed will be able to have jobs. It means additional tax revenue coming in to support many of the projects that we need to do here in the Clarksburg area. All of these things are equally connected together, and that is why this is so important for us. And the overall visibility of Clarksburg as a region and having more people invest in these kinds of areas means benefits for its residents and the greater community as a whole.”
“These are things we’ve seen at The Rio and the Downtown Crown,” said Rice, “and we’ve seen it in Bethesda and Rockville and White Flint, and the new revitalization of Pike and Rose. All of these things can spur mutual benefits for the greater community. That is my hope for what happens at Clarksburg Premium Outlets.”
Capt. Gillespie said the police department has been preparing for the opening of Clarksburg outlet mall for years. “The resources and stress have been alleviated because we have been able to plan for the last several years to get additional staff here in the 5th District to be ahead of the game for the opening of the outlets and the growth in Clarksburg in general,” he said.
“We have been able to grow our staff over the last three years so that we have additional officers that can work up here in the Clarksburg community, the outlets, as well as the Germantown Central Business District,” said Gillespie. “And in this year’s budget, which has been approved by the County Council, we will have an additional nine officers that will be assigned specifically for the Clarksburg community. They will be hired in the next academy class, and we will get boots on the ground by this time next year.”
While Rice said, he was very proud to have this project come fruition during his time as an elected official, because of what it can mean to the community.
“I want to talk about what this means for Clarksburg and Montgomery County,” Rice told the folks gathered for the grand opening. “Many of us remember our first jobs, whether it was in retail or working for a fast food entity, and we remember the lessons that we learned from that — learning how to work for someone and the feeling of getting that first paycheck. This is not just about stores; this is about starting some people’s lives on the pathway to self-sufficiency.”
Top: Local officials and stakeholders in the Clarksburg Premium Outlets cut the ribbon signifying the official grand opening of the outlet center.
Video: The official ribbon cutting and Grand Opening of Clarksburg Premium Outlets.
Next: The Clarksburg Premium Outlets main entrance.
Next: Shoppers warm themselves near the firepit in the main area.
Next: County Councilmember Craig Rice addresses the dignitaries and shoppers gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Next: The line of shoppers waiting outside of the Tory Burch store.
Next: The Grand Opening of the outlets created backups on northbound I-270 which stretched back to Father Hurley Boulevard.
Next: By 11:15 am the parking lot at the outlet center was full. Off-site parking and shuttle bus service was available at High Point Farm on Rt. 355 in Clarksburg.
Photos and video by Germantown Pulse.