Friday, December 1, 2023

There’s some movement at Merchants Square. Here’s an update

The old location for Binns of Williamsburg is gaining new life.

“The plans are for a coffee-centric tenant to move into a portion of the former Binns space,” said Jeff Duncan, vice president of real estate for Colonial Williamsburg. “There’s isn’t an official date yet and we are also in negotiations with a new tenant for the remainder of the building.”

The 15,000-square-foot building at 435 Duke of Gloucester St. housed its previous tenant for 55 years before the store moved to James City County.

With such a large space left behind, Duncan said the plans have been to separate the multi-floored unit to create multiple leasing opportunities.

“The number of retailers or restaurants that would want to use that much space are few and far between,” Duncan said. “And in some cases when you’re running a shopping center it’s more beneficial to have more smaller retailers than one big one.”

The first business to move into the area is expected to be a new coffee bar that will have a license to sell wine, according to the City of Williamsburg’s Architectural Review Board minutes from Jan. 8.

In the minutes, the business is described as euro cafe space intended for a day-long dining experience, similar to the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, the space is “proposed to pull outdoor seating away from the building, bringing life into the square.”

But for Duncan, the space offers a practical purpose as well.

“Well, if you think about Merchants Square today, there is no location on (Duke of Glouchester) Street to get a cup of coffee at 8 a.m.,” he said. “Maybe later in the morning but now this is going to be the first time visitors and students will have a new location where they can get coffee early in the morning.”

In the minutes, the business is said to have similar decorations and designs for the trellis.

Duncan was not able to comment about whether an official lease has been signed for the business yet, but he said the process is in its final stages.

Guernsey Tingle Architects, the business in charge of the project, did not immediately respond for comment.

The location has even more to offer locals in the future, Duncan said. After this winter, when the space opened as a popup location for “Sparkleland,” it has taken on new life in the area.

The three sections of the building were built in 1932, 1969 and 2002, Duncan said. The coffee business will be occupying the newer portion of the building known as “College Corner.”

For tenants in the older portion of the space, a little bit of extra care might have to take place to update the interior depending on what line of business the tenant is in, Duncan said.

“We can’t talk about it yet, but I expect something new and exciting coming,” he said.

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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