When Randy Dingus, owner of the Barber Shop and Co. in Springfield Mall, signed a new lease five years ago, he said he noticed a “tiny clause” stating if the mall were ever demolished, he would get 120 days’ notice.
He got that notice Feb. 27.
“I saw that line in the lease when I signed it, but I didn’t really pay much attention to it,” he said. “I mean, what were the chances of that happening?”
After meeting with mall management, Dingus said he was told the entire mall — with the exception of the anchor department stores — would be gutted in July and rebuilt during the next two years around the anchors, with one central entrance.
“I was in shock,” Dingus said. “It was devastating news. Five years ago, the mall told us it would be completing its renovations in sections and asked us to move to another part of the mall. We spent a fortune putting in a new store and now we have to take it back down and then move out completely. The mall pretty much told us, ‘So long, see you later.’ ”
A tenant of the mall since 1996, Dingus and his sons are searching for a nearby location for the shop, which he said has built up a considerable local following during the past 16 years.
A spokeswoman for Vornado Realty Trust, the mall’s owner, declined to comment.
“That news and that time frame is not inconsistent with what I’ve been told by Vornado,” Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff C. McKay (D-Lee) said. “I know that leases were structured [to] be able to complete the construction. A 10-year redevelopment of the mall, split into four phases, was scheduled to begin this summer.”
Phase 1 of the plan, according to a 2009 county staff report prepared for the Board of Supervisors, consists of an interior renovation of the mall, including an improved food court and construction of a new movie theater. According to the report, Vornado eventually hoped to add as many as 2,700 apartments, 450 hotel rooms and 1 million square feet of office space to the 78-acre site, while expanding the retail component of the area to 2 million square feet of shopping and dining.
The town center vision includes improved pedestrian and bicycle connections to the Franconia-Springfield Metro and Virginia Railway Express stations, and a Circulator bus service, which serves the transit station, the mall area and the rest of the Springfield revitalization district.
The developer’s plans include construction of a central plaza, ground-floor retail in the apartment buildings, a grocery, cafes with outdoor seating, a health club, and basketball and tennis courts on top of a parking garage, according to the report.
“The Springfield community has been waiting a long time for this to start,” McKay said. “This news is actually a good sign that the development is actually a go. I am glad Vornado is moving forward and having a conversation with the mall’s tenants.”
Jung-Li Moon, a mall customer, said she had no idea the mall would be closing.
“I noticed that it was getting emptier,” she said, “but I had no idea they would tear it completely down.”
Dingus said that he will be out of the mall by the June 30 deadline but that he doesn’t know where he will be going.
“Our plan is to open up a new store within 1.5 miles of the mall to be able to retain our current customers,” he said. “But it has been difficult to find something adequate and affordable. Hopefully, we can find something.”