A top executive at Rockville-based developer Lerner Enterprises said “the future is bright” for the former Landover Mall despite the Prince George’s County property having been narrowly passed over for a $645 million regional hospital.
Once home to Garfinckel’s, Hecht’s and Woodward & Lothrop department stores, the mall was demolished seven years ago. All that’s left is a Sears owned-and-operated store, surrounded by a sea of parking lots. Those lots are owned by a partnership of Lerner Enterprises, the development firm of Washington Nationals owner Theodore N. Lerner.
Although the mall was not selected for the regional hospital, Alan H. Gottlieb, chief operating officer for Lerner Enterprises, called the 88-acre property, just off the Capital Beltway, “one of the finest sites available for development in the entire region.”
“I’m certain that the attributes this site possesses will be recognized by a potential user or users and at that time we will be ready and eager to work on a new plan for development,” Gottlieb said in an e-mail.
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and other stakeholders ultimately favored the Boulevard at the Capital Centre, a Largo shopping complex, as a location for the hospital.
But shortly after the county executive told Ted Lerner, in person, that he would support the Largo site, Baker offered assurances that the county would work to create a framework for redeveloping the mall property, said David S. Iannucci, a top Baker economic development aide.
“He sent a specific message that we wanted to go from there and work toward whatever catalytic element might jump-start a town center development there,” Iannucci said. That element, Iannucci acknowledged, is not close to being identified.
The county wants more federal office projects. But the federal government has cut back on real estate investments, and when it does approve new construction, the projects are often on sites — such as Boulevard at Capital Centre — that are closer to Metro stations than Landover Mall is.
“Frankly, it might involve working with the federal government, as well as with the state government,” Iannucci said of what the county might do to help.
With competition for jobs and development increasing in the region, it won’t be easy for the mall property to become the sort of commercial center it was a generation ago as a destination for department store shoppers.
With that in mind, Lerner executives pushed aggressively for the hospital and medical campus, promising Baker and his staff that they would build an adjacent town center project that would total 8 million square feet, about one-sixth as much as has been built at Tysons Corner.
The company proposed setting aside 16 acres on the east side of the site for the hospital and surrounding it with 4.5 million square feet of office space, 2,758 residential units, 680,000 square feet of retail space and a 400-room hotel in front of a central plaza.
At completion, the project would have had 10 percent more development than is ultimately envisioned for National Harbor.
Lerner executives lowered their sights in early August, proposing a 25-acre hospital site with only 5 million square feet of development, to address traffic and cost concerns. But the board of Dimensions Healthcare System, which oversees county-owned medical facilities, decided in a unanimous vote that the hospital should be built in Largo.
Although he did not provide any specifics about where Lerner plans to go from here, Gottlieb said the company will be ready when the opportunity arises.
“Whatever the time frame is we are prepared to standby for the appropriate business deal that makes sense,” he said.