Monday, November 11, 2013


The Dark Side of White Flint, Part 17:

Welcome to a continuing series about the not-so-wonnerful, wonnerful, wonnerful side of urbanizing the suburbs.

Click here to link back to previous chapters. Today, an update on what only 2 years ago was the crown jewel of White Flint: White Flint Mall:

More prominent tenants of dying White Flint Mall are heading for the exits ahead of the mall's planned demolition.

The latest to close include Victoria's Secret, Bath and Body Works, Capital One bank, and Roxsan Day Spa. Roxsan is moving to 11755 Rockville Pike.

Rainbow Hair Designers are still open, but are planning a move to Federal Plaza further up the Pike.

Mall owner Lerner is reaching a settlement with anchor tenant Lord & Taylor, after the department store sued over contract language that theoretically prohibited demolition of the mall. Apparently, this was more about finances than principles, if Lord & Taylor is giving up that easily.

The Cheesecake Factory will eventually move to its new Bethesda location in Westfield Montgomery Mall, currently under construction.

So the slow march towards the end continues at White Flint Mall, which was only built in 1977, yet now faces demolition.


Anonymous said...

Last one out turn off the lights :)

I thought they'd have tried to squeeze one more holiday shopping season in. It is the biggest shopping time of the year ya know.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate this blog for providing far more development news/updates in the area than the mainstream media, but I really don't understand this "series." Everywhere in suburban America shopping malls are dying. White Flint Mall isn't an anomaly. In the DC Area alone, many, many malls have been or will be razed including: Laurel Mall, Landover Mall, Landmark Mall, Springfield Mall, and the list goes on and on.

The only malls that could still be considered successful are either:
- located in extremely wealthy communities and as a result are populated by high-end (read: high-margin) retail tenants (Montgomery Mall, Columbia Mall, Tysons Galleria/Center)
- located in dense urban areas (Pentagon City), although even many of these struggle (Ballston Common, City Place)
- supermalls, considered too big to fail (yet) (Arundel Mills)

White Flint was never a great mall to begin with, even before the White Flint Sector Plan, the only real draws were D&B and Cheesecake Factory. When Borders went bankrupt and Bloomingdales left for greener pastures (and incidentally will return as a result of the redevelopment) it became a ghost town.

Large indoor shopping malls surrounded by seas of parking are a staple of 1960's/70's/80's suburban culture. As suburban growth begins to dwindle and the "back-to-the-city"/smart growth movement gains steam they'll disappear from most of America's suburban landscape.

Robert Dyer said...

Appreciate having you as a reader. This series will cover more than just the mall, and is providing a more candid and complete picture of the effects of the White Flint Sector Plan than the local media is presenting. The series will continue long after the mall is demolished. So even readers who personally don't have nostalgia for the mall may find other topics of interest (there was one on the unique architecture of the former Saab dealership).

No question there is a real estate boom/bubble in many urban areas right now. But numbers show suburbs are still growing. The recent poll by The Washington Post indicated a majority of "young, hip" DC residents will move out when their children are school-age.

The suburban lifestyle remains an attractive one that most people aspire to. Malls with convenient, free parking are only one part of that. White Flint was fully leased with crowded parking lots 2 years ago. Unlike other poorly run malls, it did not fail. Its owner has decided to make a risky bet on being one of 8 or 9 town centers in an urbanization experiment in the suburbs.

That's why this series exists, to bring readers "the rest of the story," as politicians and some developers seek to overwrite the success story of the suburbs for their own financial gain. And present a more complete picture of the impact of that on the community.

Robert Dyer said...

Just to clarify for new readers, the "8 or 9 town centers" I refer to Lerner's White Flint Mall redevelopment competing with are not spread throughout the county, but rather, are all going to be along one short stretch of 355, between the mall site and the Twinbrook Metro station.

Even if the new buildings are all filled, there will not be a population to sustain all of those high-priced restaurants and shops. Inevitably, there will be losers, and that is why Lerner's bet on the White Flint urbanization experiment is a risky one. On the other hand, they did run a successful mall, so they have some advantage over the newer players in regard to retail.

Levi said...

Love the updates as well, thanks for all the work...

Just had a quick comment/request.. when you refer to addresses, could you post cross streets? Rockville Pike and Bethesda addresses along Wisconsin, Bethesda Ave and Old Gtown Road, etc are very hard to "imagine" with just a number.. its near impossible with Wisconsin/Rville PIke/355 addresses...

While I'm capable of googling the address, would be immesly appreciated to see 11755 Rockville Pike (b/w Old Gtown and Montrose) etc.


Robert Dyer said...

I'll try to do that. 355 can be really confusing for visitors, having different names for each stretch between here and Frederick.

Anonymous said...

what will happen to dave and busters? we love that place (minus its awful food).

Robert Dyer said...

Dave and Busters, alas, will be demolished with the rest of the mall. Which is a fantastic example of how our county council members talking about "attracting young, hip people" with a "vibrant nighttime economy" are also supporters of demolishing Dave and Busters and the Regal Cinemas in downtown Bethesda. Does that make sense to anybody? We're going to attract young people by demolishing businesses that currently attract young people? What's the real agenda here, folks?

Anonymous said...

actually, dave and busters has recently filed suit against the mall. so now begins the legal battles.

Barry Cohen said...

Where/when is PF Changs moving?

Robert Dyer said...

P.F. Chang's is the one restaurant that hasn't said anything. But, obviously, they will have to move when the rest of the mall is demolished in the next year or so.

Anonymous said...

As a former security personnel of white flint mall there are a lot of shady things that Lerner has been doing about the plans for this mall. They've been planning this since about 2004.