The possibility of a major renaissance of the West End of Alexandria was officially announced by Alexandria Mayor William D. Euille last Thursday during a press conference at Landmark Mall. That site would be the centerpiece of such an effort.
Revitalization of the city's West End was a major element of Euille's campaign for mayor. "My campaign slogan was "One Alexandria," and I'm here today to announce plans that will create new excitement in Alexandria's West End, and will give it its own distinctive identity," Euille told the audience assembled in the mall's center court.
General Growth Properties, owners of the mall, approached the city earlier this year regarding their intent to redevelop the Landmark Mall site, according to Eileen Fogarty, director, Department of Planning and Zoning. That was reiterated by Maura Feaheny, senior development director, General Growth Properties, Inc., at the press conference.
"Our plans are still very fluid. But we hope to get underway by 2007 with completion by 2009. We would maintain the two anchor stores, Sears and Hechts, with demolition and redesign of the center core," she explained. Whether Lord and Taylor will remain has not been decided, according to Feaheny and Euille.
Hechts and Sears own their properties. Lord and Taylor, although owned by May Company as is Hechts, is a tenant, Feaheny clarified. No other tenants for the new design have been selected at this time, she acknowledged.
"We are not just talking about the mall, we are talking about the entire West End," Euille emphasized. "If we do it right, the West End will become the kind of destination that Landmark Mall itself was back in 1963 — but even better — a place that people desire, the kind of place that people choose above all others when it comes to selecting where they work, where they live, where they play."
Alexandria's West End, west of Quaker Lane, according to 2000 Census statistics:
*Contains 53 percent half the city's total population, 68,041 out of 128,283,
*Of the total city's population, 60 percent are Black, 80 percent are Asian, and 60 percent are Hispanic,
*Has both the lowest and highest density residential areas in the city
*Has approximately 71 percent renter households, compared with 60 percent citywide,
*A little over 20,000 Alexandrians live within one-half mile of the mall on the same side of Shirley Highway, within walking distance. Another 6,000 live within the same distance across I-395, and
*Van Dorn Metro Station is just over one mile from the mall. It is connected to that station by four different city DASH bus lines, as well as Metro buses.
JOINING EUILLE at the press conference were Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper and Councilman Ludwig P. Gaines. "This has been a long time in coming. It's just awesome. I'm extremely excited about the potential it holds for the entire West End," Pepper said.
"We are all filled with so much hope. For so long, I have seen the shopping center dying. Nothing seemed to pull it up to the business potential of the other centers. Hopefully, this will be the answer," she added.
"I think the concept is very viable and in keeping with our vision for development in the city," Gaines said. "The large picture is very promising because it speaks to revitalization of the entire West End. This is an important and necessary first step to our accomplishing that goal."
During the question and answer segment of the press conference Euille noted that General Growth Properties will pay for the redevelopment of the mall. However, the various infrastructure costs could fall to the city based on future developments.
"The potential renovation of Landmark Mall is an opportunity to bring some of the best qualities we associate with Alexandria — like walkability, connectivity, beautiful tree-lined streets and people- oriented urban places, to the city's West End where they are sorely lacking," Euille emphasized.
AMONG THE MANY scenarios being considered are mixed-use concepts, which could combine office, retail, entertainment and residential into one project, according to Euille. "There'll be opportunities to explore options and present ideas through this summer and fall, and over the following year, as plans for the mall and West End are considered," Euille acknowledged.
Pictured at the event where developments such as Pentagon City and Balston. Chicago-based General Growth Properties owns a wide variety of shopping venues nationwide including Tyson's Galleria.
When asked about the impact of new housing on maintaining affordable housing for existing renters and the elderly, Euille noted, "This is a citywide concern and we will be concentrating on the affordable housing question."
Euille said, "I see rejuvenation of the West End as an important engine for continued economic development in our city. Using the potential redevelopment of Landmark Mall as a catalyst ... we can stimulate new jobs and new homes, quality retail tenants that will keep shoppers spending in Alexandria. And this rebirth ... can bring tax dollars that will pay for enhanced city services for our residents."