Sunday, March 23, 2014


The Dark Side of White Flint, Part 25

Welcome to The Dark Side of White Flint, an ongoing series about the not-so-wonnerful, wonnerful, wonnerful side of urbanizing the suburbs of Montgomery County.

The end is nigh for the venerable strip mall structure at Mid-Pike Plaza, which is currently being transformed from a suburban shopping center into a small-scale urban city. Toys R Us had moved within the center from its legendary spot on the south end; in January, it closed altogether. Now the remaining businesses in the structure are gone, and no public access is allowed - only construction vehicles.

A separate, free-standing retail structure with Starbucks remains accessible on the property.

Here for history, and posterity, are some of the final moments, images and memories of this classic Montgomery County shopping center. Mid-Pike Plaza was born decades ago, when it and Montrose Crossing were prime real estate along the future route of the DC Outer Beltway. Later, the Outer Beltway (a.k.a. I-370/Intercounty Connector) route was moved north, and the interstate's right-of-way was designated as the future Rockville Freeway.

Property owned by the Maryland State Highway Administration that was set aside for an off-ramp from the Rockville Freeway onto southbound Rockville Pike (MD 355) remains visible on records and blueprints for the new development that is replacing Mid-Pike Plaza. Of course, the county failed to build the Rockville Freeway, as well. The Montrose Parkway was built using some of the Rockville Freeway's right-of-way, but does not have the more-effective cloverleaf interchange needed to provide the maximum traffic congestion relief.

E.J. Korvette was a tenant from the early days, a department store chain that rose to prominence along with the American suburbs, as cities declined. Korvette's was the Walmart of its time, undercutting prices of its traditional retail competitors. There is a reference to Korvette's on many old documents for Mid-Pike Plaza, as well. This was before my time, but it makes me wonder if the whole site originated as a Korvette's? And, what year did Korvette's close? Is it possible I was just too young to remember it? If you know the answers, please leave a comment below!

For now, we prepare to say farewell to a classic shopping center on the busiest commercial strip in the state of Maryland. Though it falls at the hands of urbanization, it will not be forgotten.

I'll conclude with the words of Bill Shakespeare:

“But let it be. Horatio, I am dead;  
  Thou livest; report me and my cause aright
  To the unsatisfied.”


Anonymous said...

Korvettes was still around when I was little...about 35 years ago. There was a little lunch counter in the front of the store my mother would take us for hot dogs!

Robert Dyer said...

Great - thanks for posting! That would place it around 1979. I'm wondering which parts of the Plaza Korvettes was in. I remember there being a carpet store here, and I've read that some Korvettes would have a Korvettes carpet store adjacent to their department store. Maybe when Korvettes closed, someone else took over the carpet store? And the 2nd floor in G Street Fabrics, I wonder if that was leftover from Korvettes? All speculation on my part. I do have clear memories of the Super Giant (in Montrose Crossing) and Toys R Us, though.

Anonymous said...

E. J. Korvettes was the major of the mall. They were where the gym was and over towards Old Georgetown Road.

I think they closed earlier than 1979, but in the late 1970s. I remember seeing their adverts in the Post on a regular basis.

The Rockville Pike store was an outpost of the New York chain that was, as you said, the WalMart of its day.

Robert Dyer said...

Thanks! I wonder if there was a connection between the exit of Korvettes, and Toys R Us moving from further up Rockville Pike down to this location. That was in the very late 70s, as I recall.

Jorik said...

Oh my gosh! Wish I'd seen your post before this morning! My son got a Toys R Us gift card for his birthday and we drove in circles today trying to find the one in White Flint. We ended up at Pike N Rose, the new, fake mainstreet, yuppie "mixed used development," completely confused! Had to schlep to Germantown for Toys R Us!

Anonymous said...

What is the name of the restaurant that was in Mid-Pike Plaza before La Madeleine moved in? It had cozy tables with curtains that could be closed to give the tables privacy. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Back in the 70's Korvettes owned/rented the whole strip mall. They had a auto service center, the main area of Korvettes had 2 floors. They had a small diner. I got my first bike there back in 1970. Back in 1979, I used to go there to buy all my records. This store had everything! I think they closed bits and pieces around 1981-1982. It was a great place to shop!