After almost two decades of hopes and dreams of rejuvenating the Merrifield area into a walk-friendly community with shops, restaurants and apartments, all the stars aligned last year, as the Mosaic District became a reality.
Offering an array of reasonably priced food at hip restaurants, a little entertainment, and trendy low- and high-end shopping opportunities, the Mosaic District is a great place to spend the day.
“It’s a really strong community and not your typical shopping center,” says Steve Boyle, managing director of EDENS, which develops, owns and operates Mosaic. “We have people living there, plus we have so many small business owners who give back to the community and are really invested in it, I think that’s what really sets it apart.”
Currently, Mosaic is comprised of 50 retailers, 40 of which are small businesses; 21 dining options; a 148-key boutique hotel; 525 apartment units; 112 townhomes; an 8-screen Angelika Arthouse cinema; 73,000 square feet of Class A office space; and its signature Strawberry Park with big-screen viewing.
David Reiner, a long-time Reston resident, is pleased to see something thriving in what he calls “a once suburban wasteland between Falls Church and Fairfax.”
“Bringing a European vibe, complete with outdoor art festivals and farmer’s markets to the area is an exciting and wonderful thing,” he says. “It’s a cool concept that is working great.”
With so many great retailers and restaurants, Mosaic tries to tie a theme together each season and many of those who live and work in the area take part. For example, in the fall, it was all about food and diversity. In winter, businesses highlighted the holidays.
In January and February, Mosaic will be focusing on health, fitness and wellness. This was chosen as a number of fitness-based retailers will be opening, including Spark Yoga, SolidCore and Zengo Cycle.
“Sometimes things fall in place and we had three significant fitness businesses opening within a month or two, so we thought that this would be a great theme for the months,” Boyle says. “People are really focused on fitness and health in the New Year with resolutions, so it’s really the perfect time.”
A Little History
Originally referred to as the Merrifield Town Center project, the Mosaic District was made possible by great work from the Greater Merrifield Business Association, who fought for the project for years.
“The goal was to make an urban setting, one where people could walk and gather and go to great shops and restaurants,” says Ed Hogg, president of the Greater Merrifield Business Association, who has been in the Merrifield area since 1984. “Our goal was to bring in a diverse amount of businesses and professionals and more people are going to want to live in proximity to all of this.”
The genesis of all of the development activity dates back to the mid-’90s, when Bob Mortensen, then-president of the Greater Merrifield Business Association, began a series of town meetings with then-Supervisor Gerry Connolly.
“We got together and wondered what we could do about Merrifield. It’s in a fantastic location, has major hospitals, a golf course, metro station, and kind of an industrial area,” Mortensen says now. “At our town meetings we got some ideas and learned that people were jazzed by it.”
As the awareness of Merrifield conditions and potentials became known, Connolly appointed a 28-person task force to come up with a comprehensive plan, with Mortensen serving as chair.
“We met for three years and developed a sound strategic plan and essentially we wanted to develop some sort of town center that would identify the core of Merrifield,” he says. “We wanted it to be traffic neutral and wanted to maintain as many community services as possible.”
Shortly after the board adopted the plan in June 2001, there was almost $2 billion of development and improvement dollars committed to what would become a new main street. But things were halted due to the recession and other financial worries.
Over the ensuing dozen years, Supervisor Linda Smyth became a relentless champion of the plan. She was on the original task force and graduated to the Planning Commission and then to Supervisor. She was a big part in making Mosaic a reality.
Shopping and Dining
Mosaic is very selective in the type of stores that can come in.
“We are very invested in what Mosaic will become. We are getting a lot of people from Arlington and the surrounding counties coming by and it’s one of the most affluent and highly educated areas in the country so our customer base is very sophisticated,” Boyle says. “We see very savvy consumers, so we can’t just offer the same chains, we look to offer something special.”
A lot of the stores were selected because they are unique, maybe having one or two other locations in the DC Metro area. Others are one-of-a-kind, or offer something completely different. Meanwhile, popular downtown restaurants such as Ted’s Bulletin, Red Apron, Matchbox, Dolcezza and DGS Delicatessen all have a strong following but not too much saturation in the market.
“We are always growing and we have some pop-up concepts that have recently come in and some of them may become permanent businesses,” Boyle says. “There will be more development there in the next year so more opportunities will become available for retailers, as well.”
Live and Play
With thousands of people taking advantage of the housing components offered, the Mosaic District is becoming the ideal place to live and play. It offers unique experiences (such as the piano that sits outside one store with the words “play me” inviting people to stop and play), plus great family experiences as well. There’s a giant chess board for people to play, large benches for people to picnic on, communal tables to enjoy lunches, and a big screen in the middle of it all that shows movies all summer and fall. A recent showing of Frozen attracted thousands and this summer the screen was used to show World Cup games and the lawn was packed to capacity.
“Mosaic elevates the community experience to a new standard by creating a vibrant, sophisticated environment that connects families and friends together,” Boyle says. “This unique district is created through a hand-selected mix of retailers and restaurants, intelligent urban design and our passion for enabling authentic community engagement.”
Mosaic includes a hand-selected mix of DC’s top independent fashion boutiques, inspired culinary options, healthy grocers, an art house cinema, and premier national retailers. It brings all of these together to create the DC Metro’s most innovative retail and entertainment community.