Landmark Mall’s long-awaited redevelopment from a car-centric suburban shopping center into a mixed-use town center site took a major step forward Monday when the company behind the project announced that it has taken control of a key parcel of land.
The Howard Hughes Corp., which already owned the part of the mall located between Macy’s and Sears, said it has acquired the 11.4-acre Macy’s store, which is slated for closure, and the adjacent parking lot.
Hughes has notified 20 small stores in the central segment of the mall that they must close by the end of January.
“We view this as a positive way to expand the scope and scale of our project,” Mark Bulmash, Hughes’s senior vice president of development, said in an interview Monday. “It’s a big positive for us and for the community.”
Bulmash would not say how much the corporation paid for the property. Nor would he estimate when the redevelopment would start, saying only that the firm will “continue to explore strategic development opportunities for the site.”
Macy’s announced Wednesday that it will close the Landmark Mall store, part of a plan to shutter 100 of the 730 stores it operates nationwide.
The mall’s other major anchor, Sears, which is closing 150 Sears and Kmart stores around the country, will remain open, company spokesman Howard Riefs said. He said the company “will continue to monitor the developments at the Landmark Mall.”
The Hughes redevelopment anticipates a town center and open-air courtyard, with a traditional street grid, sidewalks, trees and an expanded parking garage, as well as a public transit center.
A 10-screen movie theater and a hotel are planned for the 52-acre site, along with up to 400 apartments. The housing will be built by Dallas-based Mill Creek Residential.
A reason Landmark’s redevelopment lagged for years is that the property has been owned by three major entities — Macy’s, Sears and Hughes, which took over the interior portion of the mall from a bankrupt General Growth Properties in 2009.
The Macy’s site purchase will allow Hughes to move forward with destruction and construction of two-thirds of the parcel without having to build a new store for Macy’s, as had been anticipated to avoid interfering with the retail operation, said Stephanie Landrum, president and chief executive of the Alexandria Economic Redevelopment Partnership.
“This is a very complicated site with a variety of owners and tenants,” she said. “When one of those owners takes itself out of the puzzle, it makes redevelopment a little cleaner.”
Landmark’s location, adjacent to Interstate 95 between Duke and Van Dorn streets, positions it to draw customers from all over the region. The mall was built in 1965, originally as an open-air mall with three anchor stores; it was enclosed in 1990.
The mall is close to the Cameron Station neighborhood and the growing Eisenhower Avenue areas, as well as the Beauregard Street corridor, which also is slated for redevelopment. But the sea of surface parking and road interchanges that surrounds it has made it almost impossible to reach by foot.
More than 50 percent of the space in the mall has been vacant for the past year or so. Landrum said the Alexandria government is working with the 20 remaining business owners to help them find places to relocate in the city.