The Planning Board unanimously approved on Jan. 27 a preliminary plan of subdivision and a site plan review of Westfield Shoppingtown Montgomery’s request to expand commercial retail space.
Under the site plan review, the mall will add 300,000 square feet to its existing 1.2 million square feet. Major features of design is for a name-brand, 14-screen, stadium seating movie theater and a relocation, expansion and update of the food court.
The mall industry is changing, said the counsel representing Westfield. The industry is adopting a “lifestyle” atmosphere, as customers want restaurants, exterior shops and movie theaters. The last time Montgomery Mall was upgraded was in 1991.
The preliminary plan of subdivision would add 500,000 gross leasable square feet to the mall — area to be used for a hotel, which is not included in the site plan. The location of the hotel would have to be included in a future site plan amendment addressing the hotel’s location and necessary parking improvements.
JEFF DUNCKEL of the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation said the mall is one of the county’s most important transportation facilities, serving Metrobus and Ride-On buses. “We’ve had five months of tough negotiations,” said Dunckel. “Sometimes we wondered if we would really succeed in reaching an agreement, but we have.”
The site plan calls for the removal of three existing bus bays and construction of a six-bus-bay transit center at the corner of Interstate-270 and Westlake Terrace. Two new parking garages will be built under the site plan: a four-level garage at the corner of Westlake Drive and Westlake Terrace, and a two-level garage at the corner of I-270 and Westlake Terrace.
“Part of the issue was the cost of this facility,” said Dunckel. Original projected costs of the base structure of site work were between $600,000 and $1 million. “We were proposing a very extravagant structure at one point — we backed off a little bit.”
DPWT proposed a structure with a projected cost of $500,000 under a cost-sharing agreement to be negotiated in the next two months.
UNDER THE SITE plan review, Westfield agrees to construct a 10-foot-wide share-use path along Democracy Boulevard, an eight-foot-wide share-use path on the east side of Westlake Drive, upgrade existing bike lanes on Westlake Terrace, and construct seven-foot-wide sidewalks along Westlake Terrace.
“A sidewalk should [also] be constructed on the west side of Westlake,” said Jerry Garson, co-chair of the Seven Locks Civic Association. Garson believes that this would provide pedestrian access to the mall for people who park at nearby Cabin John Regional Park.
Congestion on the Beltway and Interstate-270 causes problems with traffic by Montgomery Mall, said Garson, who said the volume of traffic requires more improvements to the surrounding roads than those Montgomery Mall is required to provide under existing agreements. Montgomery Mall is responsible for adding a northbound and southbound right-turn lane from Seven Locks Road to Democracy Boulevard, and reconfigure the traffic lanes on southbound Westlake Drive and eastbound Tuckerman Lane.