Thursday, November 2, 2006

how to save a dying mall

City Place, the Downtown mall that was almost dead from the start, has been the topic in the Silver Spring blogs this week. The Silver Spring Scene has word some people want to tear it down; meanwhile, Silver Spring, Singular wants to keep it, but is taking suggestions for a new name. Many a Silver Spring resident (even the number of people who shop there) have walked past and wondered "what do we do with this thing, anyway?"

So just to prove my own allegiance to Silver Spring, I'd like to discuss what I'd do with City Place if I were a big, fancy developer:

1) Build the office tower as proposed. Design-wise, City Place as the bottom of an office tower reminds me of Copley Place in Boston (though without the Neiman Marcus). The office tenants would provide a built-in clientele for the mall, and increased rents suggest higher-end stores would come in as well.

2) Turn the shops inside out. Remove Gold's Gym, which is on the second floor (street level) next to Round House theatre on Colesville, and put in new retail that comes all the way up to the sidewalk. Downstairs, take out part of the discount department store and create small, liner shops fronting onto Fenton. All of these new shops should be small (less than 2,000 square feet). Bigger draws should be located inside.

3) Remove the food court. In 1997, my family went to China City and ordered Lo Mein. I was horrified to discover a hair in my noodles. We never went ate in City Place again.

But, seriously, the food court is redundant with all of the eating options on Ellsworth. I would take out the entire food court and put a large-format store in its place. Perhaps the entire first floor (except for liner shops) could become a Best Buy. A smaller grouping of fast-food restaurants could join Ruby Tuesday and Taste of Morocco upstairs, hopefully capturing foot traffic from Colesville.

4) Put the most activity on the top floor. Birchmere, nightclub, Dave & Buster's - replace the old AMC 10 Theatres with something. Ditto for Burlington Coat Factory. Make the fifth floor a destination of its own. (People will have to pass through the mall anyway!) Reconfigure the Fenton Street entrance so that , after hours, the rest of the mall can be inconspicuously closed off while customers can still access the fifth floor.

5) Respect the building's history. What made the original Hecht's work - and what still makes City Place so striking - is the streamlined Art Deco exterior. The fa├žades on Fenton and Colesville scream "This mall was built in 1992!" Let's be respectful of the building's history and take some of the marble down.

Let's take that even further: Hecht's department store as we know it is closed forever, and only a handful of the non-mall locations still exist. If we are to rename City Place as Silver Spring, Singular proposes, the new name should reflect the building's history. Something along the lines of "Hecht's Center" or "Hecht's Garden." I can see people shortening it to just "Hecht's." (It's not like our kids would get it confused.)

I understand this is an expensive idea. Does City Place need this much work to be turned around? Could signing a few leases with the likes of The Gap or Bed, Bath and Beyond be enough?

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Again, put the ice rink on the bottom level!!!!

Terry said...

Do what you want with the food court overall, but the soul food place MUST live on. I am addicted to their greens.

How about doing something about that Marshall's? The clothing frequently looks like locusts have hit the store. The only women I know who have success buying clothes there know what day the new deliveries arrive and stand there and wait for the containers to be opened.

I have, however, bought a couple of nice suitcases there. I can't fuel my addiction for fancy soap there, though, because their toiletries stock looks like most stuff has been opened and had peoples fingers in there. Blech.

Robin Ficker said...

I would consider bringing in WalMart.

Terry said...

Robin, honey, God bless you. I lived in the deep South for 15 years. Please take my word for this. Wal-Mart is the LAST thing downtown Silver Spring needs.

Anonymous said...

Great subject, but one correction... the Gold's Gym is not on street level on any side. It's only accessed through the mall, or up a flight of fire stairs from Colesville.

Robin Ficker said...

Disagree. We need people to come to Silver Spring. And we need low prices. Have you ever seen how many thousands of Montgomery Countians shop at the WalMart in Germantown?

Terry in Silver Spring said...

If I wanted what's in Germantown, I'd live all the way out there. Silver Spring is a LOT more interesting and it'd be nice if we could stay that way. Besides, If I'm in the mood for a chain store, I can shop for better quality items at the Target on Cherry Hill Road or either of the ones at Wheaton Plaza or PG Plaza. Wal-Mart isn't the answer.

Anonymous said...

Sligo said...
Again, put the ice rink on the bottom level!!!!

11/03/2006 7:36 AM

RE: No it has been done before at other malls which is another recipee for failure, but then again thats probably what your hoping for.

Anonymous said...

Robin Ficker said...
I would consider bringing in WalMart.

11/03/2006 12:31 PM

RE: It will not work. That kind of store needs to be built somewhere between White Oak and Burtonsville/North Laurel area where there is enough land space.

Anonymous said...

Terry said...
Robin, honey, God bless you. I lived in the deep South for 15 years. Please take my word for this. Wal-Mart is the LAST thing downtown Silver Spring needs.

11/03/2006 12:49 PM

RE: Thank You so much for sayig that.

Ther are plenty acres of open Land in Northeast Montgomery County that can support a Wal-Mart but it has to take a group of Progressive Lawmakers to support it.

Anonymous said...

Robin Ficker said...
Disagree. We need people to come to Silver Spring. And we need low prices. Have you ever seen how many thousands of Montgomery Countians shop at the WalMart in Germantown?

11/03/2006 4:32 PM

Germantown is more of a spaced out suburb. There are already low budget stores we don't need anymore. At this point Downtown Silver Spring need more Upscale Suffisticated Stores like Macy's, Nordstroms, Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylers, Neiman Marcus, and/or Saks 5th Avenue.

terry in silver spring said...

Chuck Floyd will bring in military housing.

Terry in Silver Spring said...

Apparently, there are two Terrys in Silver Spring.

Anonymous said...

The other "Terry in Silver Spring" is Robin Ficker. He likes to steal other peoples identities so he can use them to criticize Chuck Floyd. Ficker has been engaging in the same childish antics for more than 35 years, ever since he was thrown out of West Point. Chuck Floyd worked his way up to major as a career Army officer. Ficker got himself thrown out of the West Point class of 1964 so he wouldn't have to go to Viet Nam.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...

Sligo said...
Again, put the ice rink on the bottom level!!!!

11/03/2006 7:36 AM

RE: No it has been done before at other malls which is another recipee for failure, but then again thats probably what your hoping for."

WTF is that supposed to mean? Yes, I am hoping they put in an ice rink just so I can watch it fail.

Bwahahahhahah yessssssssssss you fools! Your ice rink will seal City Place's fate once and for all!!!!!!!!

Vet said...

Robin Ficker has an Honoraable Discharge from the U.S. Army and was King of the Pits in hand to hand combat at West Point. He is the only candidate for Montgomery County Executive to call for bringing the troops home from Iraq as he has been doing for three years. The other candidates don't think Iraq is a problem even if it drains the money we need here in Montgomery County.

Anonymous said...

Sligo you are so funny. Whilr reading your last comment, I swear I heard the Dr. Evil theme (from Austin Powers) playing in the background.

I think they need to find a way to move the bus stops from the corner of Fenton & Colesville. It is excessively crowded there with vehicles and there are always tons of people hanging out on the corner.

Terry in Silver Spring said...

The bus stops in the area are about to get a LOT more confusing and messy. When they start construction on the new 2 layer bus area at the Metro, all those bus stops around the existing bus area are supposed to be move out along the roads. That should be a mess, with folks trying to find where their stop went. I'm also worried about more people getting hit by cars on their way to these stops.

I was hit a few years back crossing 16th St at E-W Hwy. Even when you aren't seriously injured, it's a horrible experience.

WashingtonGardener said...

Do NOT remove Burlington! If it goes that leaves only Marshalls for clothing choices for moderate-income families. Just today I talked to a person who lives in DC but loves shopping at Burlington - there is none in the city.
As to Marshalls - the mess is cleaned up and then re-created anew every day by its customers. - I don't know how you re-train people to respect store merchandise and not treat it like a trash pit. The prices are cheap 'cause they don't pay extra store personnel to pick up after you all day as they do at higher-priced/upscale stores. Maybe they should put up signs to that effect. BTW it was recently remodeled, so should be a little better now.
Like Terry I fear for the impending bus situations. The bus stop has already been removed from City PLace at the Fenton side and is causing much confusion - people think they can get off AFTER the buses turn from Colesville and then are miffed when the bus doesn't stop for another block or so.
As to Wal-Mart - I'd like to see one in NE DC - rather see a Target here - or something completely different.

Anonymous said...

I think there's already two Targets not to far away, so I doubt they'd go in there. Bed, Bath & Beyond would be great. There isn't one of those anywhere nearby.

Anonymous said...

And there is going to be a Target soon in Columbia Heights.