Demolition of Laurel Mall will make way for town center project

The Washington area said goodbye to another regional mall last week when developers in Prince George’s County began demolition of Laurel Mall, once a popular Route 1 shopping destination that — like others around the region and country — fell out of favor with shoppers.

Developer Greenberg Gibbons, based in Owings Mills, along with Somera Capital and AEW Capital, began tearing the mall down Aug. 15 to make way for a $130 million mixed-use town center project, a format that has grown in popularity in recent years.

(Mark Gail/THE WASHINGTON POST) - A man looks down at a closed retail area while on the escalator at the Laurel Mall.

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Laurel Mall opened in 1979 and drew shoppers with names such as Hecht’s and J.C. Penney, but its dwindling fortunes prompted Somera Capital and AEW Capital to buy it for $31 million in 2006 and quickly plot changes.

By the holiday shopping season last year, discount stores had replaced most of the mall’s name retailers. This January, Terry J. Lundgren, Macy’s chairman, president and chief executive, announcedthat the company would close the mall’s Macy’s anchor.

Enclosed malls — save for mega destinations such as Tysons Corner Center — have been losing their luster for some time. Commercial real estate giant Vornado/Charles E. Smith recently closed Springfield Mall and plans to spend more than $200 million transforming it into a mix of 2,000 residential units, a 225-room hotel and new shopping options.

Owners of White Flint Mall, Lerner Enterprises and the Tower Cos., have unveiled plans to “de-mall” their property as well, in the form of a 25-year plan to close nearly all of the mall’s existing stores and build a central plaza in the middle of the 31-acre property.

The concept for Laurel Mall is similar: Towne Centre at Laurel, an open-air center with 435 residential units and 400,000 square feet of retail, including a grocery store and a movie theater.

Greenberg Gibbons is a specialist in creating similar outdoor shopping and lifestyle centers, having had a hand in Annapolis Town Centre and Southgate Shopping Center in Culpepper. The company issued a news release saying the Laurel project could benefit from from its proximity to Fort Meade, which is experiencing a growth of Defense Department facilities.

“The time is right to breathe new life into this prime location, making way for the kinds of high-quality retailers and restaurants that the Laurel community deserves,” said Brian Gibbons, chairman and chief executive of Greenberg Gibbons.

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