Cedar Park Shopping Center Reopens to Promise and Uncertainty

After enduring months of construction, Vienna residents and town officials officially welcomed the Cedar Park Shopping Center back to the neighborhood with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a Shop and Stroll event on Saturday (Nov. 14).

Located at the corner of Park Street and Cedar Lane, the 75,472 square-foot shopping center has been transformed by an extensive renovation that introduced new façades for the buildings and a reconfigured parking lot.

“Cedar Park was thoughtfully redesigned with the community in mind and now better reflects the Town of Vienna, which is known for its rich history and small-town culture,” First Washington Reality senior vice president and national director of leasing Wright Sigmund said.

First Washington Realty has owned the Cedar Park Shopping Center for the past 13 years, and much of that time had been spent in conversations about how to update the property, according to CEO Alex Nyhan.

Work on a revitalization began in earnest about five years ago with the goal of creating a more contemporary, welcoming environment for both visitors and tenants. JL Architects designed the new look, which includes new signage and outdoor benches.

However, the most substantial undertaking of the multimillion-dollar renovation project was the parking lot redesign.

In addition to sporting a repaved surface and additional crosswalks, the lot has been reoriented to run parallel to the storefronts, instead of perpendicular, making it safer, more accessible, and easier to navigate.

Nyhan admits that revamping the parking lot was a challenge, but the effort was worthwhile to attract new tenants while retaining longtime Cedar Park occupants like Dollar Tree, McDonalds, and Hunan Delight.

“We’ve had some wonderful merchants with us here at this center for a long time,” Nyhan said. “…In the end, our ability to create this community gathering place has everything to do with the merchants and their ability to invest in their people and their stores and deliver wonderful services to this community.”

Still anchored by CVS Pharmacy, Cedar Park Shopping Center added three new tenants while it was undergoing construction, which started on Jan. 25 and finished on Oct. 15:

  • El Sol Restaurant & Tequileria, which specializes in traditional Mexican street food and has a mezcal bar
  • Simply Social Coffee, a café with locally roasted, gourmet coffee and comfort foods, including salads, sandwiches, and breakfast food
  • Born 2 Dance, a dance studio whose headquarters were previously located on Maple Avenue

Cedar Park’s relaunch comes at a critical time for the center’s businesses after the COVID-19 pandemic compounded the challenges of operating during a construction project that closed off foot traffic.

Crepes & Karak Café, which has been at Cedar Park for almost four years, lost 60% of its sales after closing for two weeks when COVID-19 first hit Virginia in March, according to owner Ashraf Hamid.

Like many other restaurants, the café scrambled to stay afloat by enhancing its delivery services and online presence and introducing contactless ordering, allowing people to place an order and pick it up outside.

“Everybody is looking forward for this project, because it looks amazing now, and hopefully, it will bring more customers [and] foot traffic,” Hamid said.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert thanked Washington Realty for investing in Cedar Park. She believes the combination of new businesses, a fresh look, and parking improvements will attract community members to the venue.

The Town of Vienna has been active in encouraging residents to support local businesses with initiatives like the Shop and Stroll events that the economic development office has been hosting at different shopping centers around town every Saturday since Oct. 24.

“Now is the time to support our businesses,” Colbert said. “They need our help if they’re going to last through the winter and everything.”

The relaunch illustrated Cedar Park’s potential as a shopping center and community hub, but an air of uncertainty also hovered over the proceedings, which took place a day after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced new restrictions intended to control the spread of COVID-19.

Effective as of Nov. 15, the restrictions include a 25-person limit on public and private social gatherings and a prohibition on on-site alcohol sales and consumption in food establishments.

Hamid says the new policies will likely put Karak Café’s application to the Town of Vienna for an outdoor dining permit on hold, but his primary fear is that businesses will have to close again like many did in the spring.

“Definitely we cannot survive it,” Hamid said of a second shutdown. “We’d be out of business, unfortunately.”

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