For years Park & Shop was the closest place for Mary Washington students to shop. A sometimes-risky trek across U.S. 1 led them to the ’60s-style strip mall that offered the necessities of college life.
Today, the UMW Foundation owns the property, and a pedestrian bridge makes crossing the highway a breeze. Now named Eagle Village, the area is being redeveloped into a mixed-use retail district with grocery and specialty stores, restaurants, student housing, office space, and a 93-room Hyatt Place hotel.
The UMW Foundation bought the 23-acre property in 2007 at the request of the Board of Visitors, said Jeff Rountree ’91, foundation CEO. It was a rare chance to buy land next to campus, and it provided room to build premium student housing. Eagle Landing, a five-story apartment-style building, was constructed on the site that once housed a Roses discount store, and before that a Montgomery Ward.
Eagle Landing opened in 2010, with 156 apartments. Beside it is the Executive Offices at Eagle Village, which fronts a parking deck used by students and office tenants. The area is connected to the main campus by a covered glass-and-steel pedestrian bridge that spans U.S. 1.
The Eagle Village complex is halfway through its transformation. The newest addition, opened in mid-January, is the five-story Hyatt Place hotel built near the Giant grocery store where old shops were razed. Its design and brick exterior mirror those of Eagle Landing, the Executive Offices, and the pedestrian bridge.
Hotel manager Jim Fournier predicted that many of his guests will come to Fredericksburg for UMW events. Because the Hyatt fronts a new road that links Eagle Village to the Mary Washington Hospital campus, other guests may choose the hotel to be near medical facilities and family members using them. And with event space for as many as 150 people, the Hyatt Place is likely to attract locals, too. “There’s a tremendous social market with weddings, reunions, and alumni events we’ll be able to tap into,” Fournier said. “We have the perfect location to serve all those different segments.”
Rountree calls the Hyatt “the front door, the first impression for the many high school students and their families touring UMW.” It also gives visiting academics, speakers, and athletes a place to stay, he said, and could serve as a learning lab for UMW business classes.
The Executive Offices at Eagle Village is situated between the Hyatt Place and Eagle Landing student housing. The building’s ground floor houses restaurants, a coffee shop, a dry cleaner, and other retail businesses. Across the development, Planet Fitness health club opened in September in an 18,000-square-foot storefront that had been vacant for a decade.
Owners of new restaurants and businesses like Planet Fitness chose Eagle Village because they wanted to be close to UMW. The same is true for the next major development. This spring, the Children’s Museum of Richmond expects to open its third satellite location there. The museum has leased about 12,000 square feet in existing storefronts at the south end of the shopping center.
“One of the things that really appealed to us is the possibility of working with UMW,” said museum president and CEO Karen Coltrane. She’s talked with the UMW College of Education about potential collaborations. “Anybody who is interested in art education would love to be with us; we’ll have a world-class children’s art studio,” she said. “Anybody who wants to be a teacher – this will be an
opportunity to find out if it’s what you want to do.”
The museum targeted Fredericksburg as its first location outside of the Richmond region. Coltrane expects more than 350 visitors daily, so she looked for ample parking, which Eagle Village provides. Plus, the development offers outdoor space for museum exhibits. “I think we found a win-win,” she said. “I think it worked out really well.”
Rountree sees “a natural fit” between UMW and the museum. “We view this as not just a leasing arrangement, but as a true partnership and where our students can be engaged as volunteers and mentors,” he said. “Like Planet Fitness, the children’s museum will attract large volumes of people to Eagle Village, so the museum will be welcomed with open arms by all of our existing businesses.”