Italian coffee company Illy and an unnamed retailer will move into the former Binns building on Duke of Gloucester Street, Colonial Williamsburg Vice President of Real Estate Jeff Duncan confirmed.
At a Planning Commission meeting to discuss the city’s comprehensive plan Feb. 27, Duncan laid out a roadmap of planned Merchants Square openings over the next 18 months. At the meeting, CW representatives were invited to highlight recent and upcoming projects that Planning Commission will take into consideration as it develops the comprehensive plan.
Longtime Merchants Square staple Binns of Williamsburg left its Duke of Gloucester Street storefront last summer. The store has since reopened in James City County’s WindsorMeade Marketplace, but the approximately 15,000-square-foot storefront was left vacant while Colonial Williamsburg marketed the property to potential tenants.
It won’t stay that way for long. The former Binns building will be divided into two storefronts, according to Duncan. Illy Caffè, a coffee and wine bar, will occupy a 2,200-square-foot space next to Talbots, while an unannounced new retail and entertainment shop will take up 13,000 square feet, he said.
Illy, an Italian coffee roasting company, operates more than 160 coffee and wine bars in 34 countries, according to its website, but the Merchants Square location will be its first in the region. The cafe will feature an outdoor patio area and serve Illy products along with sandwiches, wraps, salads and desserts. Duncan said the cafe is expected to open by summer.
“They’re sort of like Starbucks in Europe,” he said. “They’re out of Italy, and they’re expanding their presence in America, and so they have several of these Illy Caffès in the San Francisco Bay area, New York City, around Washington, D.C, but this will be their first location in this region,” Duncan said.
Elsewhere in Merchants Square
Along with Illy and the Precarious Beer Hall in the Henry Street Shops, which is slated to open in June, Duncan said eight new stores and restaurants will have opened in Merchants Square during the past five years. Combined, he said they’re expected to generate about $7.5 million in sales annually.
In that same period, six stores have closed he said. New tenants have either moved, or will soon move, into each of the six storefronts formerly occupied by Bella Lingerie, Binns, Closet Envy, Seasons, Silver Vault and the Williamsburg Art Gallery.
In the next 18 months, five new restaurants and retailers are expected to open in Merchants Square. Lease agreements for the planned tenants are in various stages, Duncan said.
“I don’t expect there to be any vacancies at all in Merchants Square by the end of next year,” Duncan wrote in an email.
Along with the unnamed store coming to the former Binns building, Duncan said other openings will include a 2,400-square-foot ladies fashion store and a 2,500-square-foot ladies and men’s fashion store. New restaurants include a 1,750-square-foot cafe and a 3,000-square-foot family restaurant.
Colonial Williamsburg also plans to upgrade the existing landscaping at the Berret's Seafood Restaurant & Taphouse Grill lawn at the corner of Francis and South Boundary streets.
“There’s the construction that’s going on now at the (College of William and Mary) bookstore, so that’s one of the new tenants that is coming,” Duncan said. “We also have the last space in the Henry Street Shops right next to the Mellow Mushroom that’s vacant, so one will be going in there.”
Plans are also underway to redevelop the 42,412-square-foot Goodwin Building. Duncan said Colonial Williamsburg is working with a developer to convert its former administrative headquarters into an apartment building with retail on the first floor.
“We’ve identified a developer that we’re going to be working with, and they’re now in an investigation phase of the building, so they’re going through the entire building and looking at all of the systems, and that will probably be going on for a couple of months,” he said.
At the meeting, Duncan also gave an update on Colonial Williamsburg’s plans for Palace Farms, a 21-acre plot of land across from the Visitor Center that won approval to be converted into an outdoor concert space late last year.
Last November, City Council granted Colonial Williamsburg a special-use permit allowing it to hold events at the site through Dec. 31, 2020. Early plans were for the first set of events to run from June to October, but Duncan said it’s unlikely any events will be held on the field this year.
“We’re just not prepared yet to move forward with any great speed on that, that’s why we asked for two years, so we’re still assessing what we need to do there and what the infrastructure needs are, and how we might market the space for concerts as an outdoor venue,” he said.
Planning Commission will reconvene March 27 to hear similar presentations from Williamsburg Regional Library and W-JCC Public Schools.
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.