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Restaurants still opening, despite economy
Salad Creations was the first of several eateries that have opened or are scheduled to open in Eagle Village.
PETER CIHELKA/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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BY CATHY JETT
Eagle Village's newest section is becoming a magnet for restaurants.
Two more are in the pipeline, and leases are likely to be finalized and announced early next year. They'll bring the total number of eateries in the building next to the Eagle Landing dorm to eight.
For now, that leaves Lee's Dry Cleaners as the only non-restaurant located there.
Jeff Rountree, CEO of the University of Mary Washington's private real estate foundation and president of Eagle Property Holdings, said the plan has always been to have a variety of retailers there as well as restaurants and cafes, but said he hasn't been surprised that the mix is lopsided right now.
Thalhimer, Cushman & Wakefield, which is handling the leasing, had predicted that the economic downturn would hit retail hard, and it would take time for that industry to recover, he said. Restaurants, on the other hand, weren't expected to be affected as severely.
"That's exactly what we've seen," Rountree said. "We're seeing very little movement in the non-food sector, and very robust movement in the restaurant sector. We're almost 60 percent leased, and it's almost all restaurants."
What's happening at Eagle Village--and other locations in the Fredericksburg area--reflects the National Restaurant Association's projections of "gradual improvement" this year as the economic downturn eases.
Its forecast for 2010 found that the restaurant industry, the nation's second largest private-sector employer, outperformed the national economy in 2009 despite job losses. And it predicted that job growth would resume this year--and add 1.3 million career and employment opportunities by 2020.
"The restaurant industry is working its way out of the recession," said association spokeswoman Annika Stensson, "but there are still challenges ahead and we're not out of the woods yet."
So far, Blackstone Coffee and Salad Creations, the two places that have opened in Eagle Village, appear to be doing well. Blackstone is packed mornings and evenings with people seeking a jolt of joe or a place to plug in their laptops and study, while Salad Creations typically has a line out the door for midday Mondays through Fridays, Rountree said.