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Costco: The Lesser of Two Evils?

Ron weighs in on the upcoming construction of Costco on Route 1.

Let me clarify, once and for all, that yes, in a few months, construction will begin on a new Costco at the site currently occupied by the former Mount Vernon Cinema, otherwise known as the “Gooey-Plex.”  You remember the MV Cinema, don’t ya?  That’s the one where a where a grand opening for an Oscar-winning movie might attract a Brownie troop and a few senior citizens looking to take advantage of their AARP discount cards.    

For years, as the rumors were flying that the Cinema would soon be closing, there were a lot of behind the scenes discussions going on about who might be interested in taking over the property.  There was talk about a new Wegmans, but they ultimately decided to locate at the corner of Telegraph Road and Beulah over in Springfield. Then, our old buddies at WalMart expressed interest in expanding their current store to that site, which would make it a Double-Super-Duper WalMart. Then, we heard that there was some talk about a residential complex or a town center, but those ideas just never panned out.

And now we’re stuck with Costco — another box store. 

Of course, when I say “stuck” it means that I am, at the best, very ambivalent about a new Costco. Personally, I enjoy (“enjoy” might not be the exact word I’m looking for) shopping at Costco once I’m inside. I appreciate the cheap prices, good vegetables, the salmon, and the cheap golf balls to replace the ones that are at the bottom of the pond in front of the 16th hole at the Mount Vernon Country Club.  And, if the entire Seventh Fleet is coming over for lunch, I can get a lot of mayonnaise for a great price.    

On the other hand, here comes more traffic, folks!  You all know what that area is like on a regular Saturday afternoon. Now, double it. Imagine all of those people coming from the south trying to make a left hand turn into the parking lot. Patrons sitting in the booths at Elsie's, nibbling on the special of the day (“Macaroni and Cheese sandwich for $2.99!") will get a great view of the gridlock.      

Our local Supervisors, Gerry Hyland and Jeff McKay (the property is technically in Jeff’s district) are not thrilled with this development. They both would have preferred something a little more upscale than another box store. But they were getting barraged from constituents who grew weary of watching the theater fall further into disrepair and there weren’t many other options on the table. So, it was a Hobson’s Choice for them. (Finally - I’ve always wanted to use the term “Hobson’s Choice” in a column!)  

So, if you need to buy enough cans of pork and beans to recreate the campfire scene in “Blazing Saddles,” Costco is your place!  If your hubby needs another 13 flannel shirts to wear during the playoff games, hurry on down to Costco! And, if you are already sick and tired of the parking lot that is Route One, buck up. 

It’s gonna get worse.      

Mike Smith January 24, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Ron - I would just like to point out that a Wegman's or a Town Center at that location wouldn't have been any better, if anything those options would have been worse. Those options bring large amounts of traffic (during morning rush hour) and require lots and lots of parking. A residential building isn't something we needed at that location either. Route 1 already has numerous other areas zoned residential that are in need of redevelopment. Costco is a good choice. They're a good neighbor in the community, pay premium wages, and their stores don't open until 10 am M-F. This later opening means that they won't add to the morning rush hour, as others have stated and implied. Sure there will be added traffic but that's the goal of a successful business. After all when the Multiplex first opened they used to shutdown Route 1 to let people in and out of the parking lot.
Trudi Lewis Boyd January 25, 2012 at 02:36 AM
Given the congested traffic on Route One -- even before the new Costo - how about consideration for widening Richmond Highway. Long overdue in my opinion!!
Eileen Kelly January 25, 2012 at 11:50 AM
I don't understand where the large increase in traffic will come from and why the area needs another Wharehouse store. There are already 5 Costo's within 15 miles of this location, 3 within 10! (Newington, Pentagon City & Potomac Mills) So people aren't going to be coming from very far to get to this Costo. What will happen is all those cars already on Route 1 to run their Saturday errands may add a stop at Costco.
Ron Fitzsimmons January 25, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I hear ya, Mike. Any option would probably bring more traffic, unless it was a new branch of MVC Video (how is that place still open when there's so much stuff available on the Internet - or so I've heard)?
Ron Fitzsimmons January 25, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Trudi, there have been "plans" for years to widen Route One but at least in my lifetime, I'll never see it happen because there ain't no money. Now, since you're only 31 years old (my investigative team does research on every commenter), maybe you'll get to see a wider route one in your lifetime.
Ron Fitzsimmons January 25, 2012 at 01:27 PM
One thing, Eileen, is how that area is constructed, with several stop lights. Again, that area, where you enter into Walmart is bad already on a weekend. Then, all of those folks on the east side of Route One who enter Route One near the horse farm to go to Springfield, will now be going straight to the new Costco. And those who go to Pentagon City, using the parkway, might also go over to Route One. As for me, I'm gonna take my bike!
Laura Shonerd Genuario January 25, 2012 at 01:59 PM
I for one am thrilled that we will have a Costco as the other locations are not convenient for me normally. Having a Costco is an upgrade to our locality; finally our citizens won't have to drive to these other locations. And while I don't entertain the Seventh Fleet for lunch, I do go about my normal everyday activities that the rest of our community probably does, which is planning "what's for dinner tonight," as well as occasional gatherings for family and friends, school functions, business groups, etc. It will be nice to have a Costco nearby, where I can run to get their pre-made meals, bakery items, platters, fresh seafood, as well as the big variety of other consumer goods all offered at great price points. My Safeway at Ft Hunt Road is convenient but expensive, small and lacking in many ways. Yahoo for our area's finally having more variety, convenience and choice!
Wildermann January 25, 2012 at 02:01 PM
The traffic you speak of is on the road as it is, since Costco members have to drive either to Newington or Pentagon City. I like the idea of spending a little less time in the car and less on gas by having a closer Costco. Costco is not necessarily cheaper than their competitors. It is true that some items are great deals while others can cost more than at their competitors. Technology gives consumers advantages to comparison shop and create shopping lists with the best bargains before venturing out and about and wasting precious fossil fuel resources while in search of some savings. The nice thing about Costco is their reputation as an employer that pays decent wages and provides a wider range of benefits to their employees than say Walmart.
Mike Smith January 25, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Haha Ron, so true. :)
m.tracy January 25, 2012 at 11:51 PM
costco isn't quite the threat that some would have us believe. 143,000 sf of building on 12 acres is not very dense development, and there's plenty of space for entrances and exits for parking . . (compare to the heights at groveton, 360,000 square feet of office, retail, and housing, plus 500 parking spaces, on less than 4 acres, all jammed up on rte 1.. ) people should be cautious about "mixed use" development. it sounds poiitically correct, but few people realize the tradeoff is increasing the density so developers can make big profits. someone should simply put a stop to this headlong rush to development until rte 1congestion problems are resolved..
William T. January 27, 2012 at 09:14 PM
I see no problem with "them" building a costco where the ghetto-plex used to be. I highly doubt traffic would be anymore worse than it already is on that stretch of Route 1 (damn the long light by Wal-mart!). With that being said, I would like to see something a little more up-scale put in that area. However, I seem to recall one of the reasons why the multiplex was shut down in the first place, was due to all the crime around it.
Linda February 28, 2012 at 07:15 PM
We need more shops (better) in the Sacramento Center too also whats happening with the closed Bottom Dollar we could use a Giant down here Mr.McKay are you listening!!!!

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