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Montgomery Mall Expansion Moves Ahead

Renovation including new dining and theater under Planning Board review.

Westfield Shoppingtowns, the developer that owns Montgomery Mall, submitted its expansion plans to the Montgomery County Parks and Planning Commission last month and is making plans to move forward as the plans undergo a series of Planning Commission staff reviews. The first review took place Sept. 7.

The proposed project would create a crescent-shaped façade on Westlake Terrace that includes a new movie theater, high-end restaurants and new retailers such as Borders or a possible grocery store. Westfield hopes to secure all the necessary entitlements by February and begin construction in July. The project would take about 30 months to complete.

The mall was last developed in 1991, when it added the section that includes Nordstrom. When JC Penny left in 2001, Westfield decided to replace it with Hecht’s Home Store on the upper level and Old Navy and smaller retail shops on the lower level after failing to lure a high-end department store such as Niemann Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue.

“The reality looking back at it is that it just didn’t work out for us,” said Anthony Alessi, regional director of development for Westfield. Shopping centers like Tysons Corner and the Washingtonian Center on I-270 lured customers away with the promise of not only shopping but also dining and entertainment.

With the new development, Westfield hopes to correct its mistake and reposition Montgomery Mall as one of its flagship centers. The mall already ranks among the best in the country in sales per square foot.

“We think hopefully an enhanced mall will bring customers back but we don’t envision drawing any more new people to the area,” Alessi said. “We’re trying to reposition our mall, stay a good mall for the future.”

Most of the concerns about the development raised in community meetings center around traffic issues. With the Fortune Parc development at Seven Locks and Montrose roads stalled due to market conditions, Westfield may be asked to make some of the improvements that Fortune Parc’s developers were asked to take on.