Credit: Equity One logo

The Jacksonville-based shopping center company Regency Centers announced this week  it would purchase the real estate company Equity One, which for the past four years has been pursuing a plan to redevelop the area that includes the Westwood Shopping Center in Bethesda’s Westbard neighborhood.

Regency agreed to purchase Equity One, based in New York and Miami, for about $5 billion in the deal that will make the combined company one of the nation’s largest shopping center investors, according to The Wall Street Journal. The two companies would have a combined portfolio of 429 properties located mostly in high-density and wealthy areas.

The combined company will retain the Regency name and be based in Jacksonville, according to a news release. Regency officials expect the merger to save about $27 million by eliminating duplicative operating costs. Both companies have portfolios dominated by supermarket-anchored shopping centers, such as in Westbard where a Giant grocery store anchors other smaller retail stores at the Westwood center.

What’s not immediately clear is if the merger will affect Equity One’s planned Westbard redevelopment. The company has spent years fighting for the rights to construct a new shopping center, townhomes and apartment buildings in the suburban neighborhood. In May, the County Council formally approved the Westbard Sector Plan that would enable the company to build 60-foot-tall buildings and new housing in the area.

In September, Westbard residents filed a lawsuit against the county for approving the plan, citing environmental and zoning issues. Also, earlier this year the Equity One executive who had been leading the redevelopment project, Michael Berfield, left the company and was replaced by a new executive, Bill Brown.