I've been going to the Aquia Towne Center Movie Theatre for almost as long as it's been up! Built in 1986, it was a wonderful addition to a growing area. Sitting just outside the gates of the Aquia Harbour community, the Aquia Towne center, owned by Michigan-based Ramco-Gershenson Properties Trust, was a perfect addition for families looking for nearby entertainment. Every summer, Regal Cinemas offered free children's movies to the public on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. I can't tell you how many movies we sat through. It was a perfect escape – especially on swim meet days when the kids couldn't go in the pool until later in the afternoon.
Ramco-Gershenson plans to redo the Aquia Towne Shopping Center which has various one story shops and restaurants such as Big Lots, Minnieland, Achara Flowers and Gifts, Rite-Aid, as well as Northrup Grumman and much more. In its place will be upscale office buildings, restaurants and shops, parking garages, as well as between 69 and 287 residential units with a maximum of 727,473 of commercial use. The Aquia 10 Regal Cinema is expected to remain open until this coming June when plans for its demolition commence. In its place will be a 14-screen, state-of-the-art theater which is digitally enhanced and will seat up to 2,500.
Understandably, while the "idea" seems ideal from a commercial perspective, area residents are less than enthusiastic about the consequences of such a proposal. Most impacted by the proposal are the residents of bordering Aquia Harbour who have issue with the developers plans to try to access two additional entrances into the Town Center which will need Aquia Harbour HOA approval.
Also, groups such as Stafford Citizens for a Sustainable Future (SCSF), a non-partisan group made of local Stafford citizens concerned about the county's growth, have strong concerns about traffic issues, among other things. Currently, traffic at the intersection of Rt 1 and 610 sees significant traffic delays specifically at peak evening rush hour times. VDOT's impact study shows concerns about the future traffic generated as a result of the developer's proposal.
Changes to the applicant's proposal which were to appear before the Stafford County Board of Supervisors on December 18th, were made on December 17th. The changes were significantly different from the original proposal with regard to proffers paid by the developer (see page 7).
In conclusion, while I welcome progress and would love to see Aquia Towne Center renovated to reflect a more modern and attractive shopping center, it is imperative that the county residents realize that with progress comes a price and traffic concerns are at the top of many Stafford commuters' minds. Like most improvements in the county, it is my opinion that Stafford won't have a well thought out and financed infrastructure to accommodate this much anticipated renovation.