The development pipeline for large-scale retail projects had slowed to a trickle. So it was with great fanfare that two big projects debuted in Richmond, Va., in September 2003.

Plans for Forest City Enterprises' and MJGT Associates' Short Pump Town Center and Taubman Centers' Stony Point Fashion Park were controversial. Some were skeptical that Richmond could absorb 2 million square feet of new retail space.

Both projects are open-air and target the same upscale demographic. Moreover, the developers weren't on the best of terms with each other. They battled for tenants, which led to a bidding war and lower rents. There were also lawsuits aimed at slowing the projects. But both were steady in their resolve.

They suspected that Richmond was leaking sales to Northern Virginia in the D.C. suburbs — about 90 minutes away. They appear to have been right. Stony Point and Short Pump each have had success keeping consumers closer to home.

“I did a little bit of a rough map the other day — based on our sales and reported sales at Stony Point and other existing malls — and discovered that overall sales in Richmond have increased significantly,” says Craig White, manager of Short Pump. In fact, proposals on the drawing boards call for more centers to enter the Richmond region.

“The market has adjusted well,” says Taubman CEO Bobby Taubman, “It remains to be seen how much announced will be built.”

Both the 690,000-square-foot Stony Point and the 1.3 million-square-foot Short Pump are now each succeeding on their own merits. Taubman has been happy enough with Stony Point that it is building a similar project outside Detroit called the Mall at Partridge Creek.

I visited both centers one day in January and noticed clear similarities. The projects are town-center developments with a few anchors and a dose of lifestyle tenants lining paved walkways. They each liberally pull from the region's architecture, employing healthy helpings of red brick. They also have some tenant overlap, both featuring a Dillard's and Dick's Sporting Goods as anchors, along with in-line tenants including Godiva and Chipotle.

The $115 million Stony Point is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue, Dillard's and Dick's Sporting Goods. Its single-level layout, organized around the anchors, is more conventional than Short Pump. It seems more of a regional mall turned inside out.

Short Pump is more sprawling — on two levels. The $360 million project is located in a historic area of Richmond, and it pulls from that history with statues and other features.

And while both projects have enjoyed success, Short Pump seems to be faring slightly better. In every month of 2005, it saw double-digit sales increases over the previous year, according to Henrico County sales records. Stony Point, meanwhile, posted flat sales.

Short Pump recently completed a 90,000-square-foot expansion. Originally slated to house a Lord & Taylor, developers reconfigured the expansion to include in-line space. And in a major coup, it was able to land Saxon shoes, a 50-year-old Richmond institution.

In the end, one project doesn't have to fail for the other to succeed. And both seem to be proving their worth as individual centers.

Vitals

Location: Richmond, Va.

Size: 690,000 square feet; 1.3 million square feet

Opened: September 2003

Owner: Taubman Centers; Forest City Enterprises and MJGT Associates

Anchors: Dick's Sporting Goods, Dillard's, Saks Fifth Avenue (Stony Point); Dick's Sporting Goods, Dillard's, Nordstrom, Hecht's (Short Pump).