The May Department Stores Co. told Arlington officials yesterday it is willing to spend $100 million to redevelop the Parkington Shopping Center, Northern Virginia's first shopping mall, but only if the county agrees to contribute at least $13 million toward the effort.
The proposal by the St. Louis-based firm represents the first major renewal plan for the area known as Ballston. Metro's Ballston subway station, located two blocks from the 14-acre mall, is scheduled to open Dec. 1.
The 27-year-old shopping center, which has a pea green painted facade and contains a Hecht Co. and J. C. Penny as well as 10 smaller stores, is located at the intersection of North Glebe Road and Wilson Boulevard about four miles from downtown Washington.
Officials of the May Co., which owns Hechts and Parkington, and of the Michigan-based Taubman Corp., a shopping center developer, unveiled the plan before the early morning meeting of the Arlington Economic Development Commission.
The plan calls for the demolitition of all the present one-story unenclosed mall, except for the Hechts building, the largest structure on the site. Preliminary plans show the construction of a new two-story enclosed mall with a J. C. Penny store located opposite Hechts.More than 30 smaller shops would be clustered between Hechts and Penny's and atop a three story parking garage.
May Co. officials who will present the plan to the Arlington County Board next week, warned yesterday that without a $13 million subsidy from the board to build the garage, redevelopment will not occur.
"This is a super viable area, especially with Metro, but it's an urban area, not a surburban site," said project manager John Moore. "Building structured parking on a 14-acre urban site is a lot more expensive than putting parking on a 60-acre suburban site in Fairfax County where you can spread out."
Taubman Corp. president, Robert Larson, whose firm is building urban shopping centers in Stamford, Conn., and Detroit, said that governments there have agreed to make financial contributions similar to that being requested of Arlington.
"I would think that this is the key to a renewal strategy for Arlington," said Larson in a telephone interview. "We would like to see some nice, stylish shops in there."
For the past decade Arlington officials have repeatedly discussed how to attract business back to shabby commercial areas like Ballston, which have been eclipsed by larger and flashier suburban malls like Tysons Corner.
In the past year, as the subway opening date grew closer, small developments of $100,000 town houses began appearing near Ballston, but there was no similar commercial redevelopment.
"This is a real shot in the arm," said county planner John Gessaman, who attended yesterday's meeting. "There just haven't been any new major buildings proposed for Ballston."
County planners estimate that the proposed redevelopment -- which May Co. officials said they would like to begin next year -- would bring an estimated $1 million per year to Arlington in tax revenues.
"Anything that brings business to Arlington I'm for," said Paul Nassetta, a major area real estate developer and a member of the Economic Development Commission. "But is it worth $13 million to the taxpayers of this county to improve Parkington? I don't like subsidies -- I never have."
"I also think you need a third, classier store in there," Nassetta continued. "Arlington is a high-income area and I think they're aiming for a lower middle-class market."
Commission member Elizabeth Weihe agreed that a third major store would be desirable. "I'd like to see a Lord and Taylor in there," Weihe, a civic activist said. "But I'm very pleased that (the May Co.) has made this kind of commitment." CAPTION: Picture, The 27-year-old Parkington shopping mall in Arlington is the subject of a $113 million redevelopment proposal by its owner, May Department Stores Co., By Linda Wheeler -- The Washington Post