City Place Mall owners are considering several options to transform the Silver Spring shopping center, one of which could make it home to a group of national outlet stores.
The property owner and manager are examining four different directions to take the mall, said Walter Petrie, chairman of property manager Petrie Ross Ventures.
“All of the options are exciting, but we have to analyze each one before we decide which way to go,” he said.
Petrie declined to discuss details of the options, but the outlet concept was made public recently when a development company posted renderings online. Despite Internet rumors on Silver Spring blogs and news sites, the plans, created by EWB Development LLC, by no means reflect the final decision, Petrie said.
“The site is trying to promote the idea,” he said. “We haven’t decided whether to go in that direction yet.”
The website for The Outlets at Silver Spring advertises “evolved shopping in the heart of a vibrant, busy downtown.” In the design, the mall’s blank retro facade with minimalist signage is replaced by sleek, red lettering and tenant names on each side.
Property owner Hutensky Capital Partners and Petrie Ross Ventures have been working on plans to revamp the mall for a year. They will make a decision on a new vision in the next two months, Petrie said.
“There’s a lot of different approaches to this,” he said. “We clearly want to reposition it.”
The mall, built in the late 1980s, languishes behind its adjacent neighbor, the recently redeveloped and upscale Downtown Silver Spring properties owned by Peterson Cos. Many spaces are vacant and the shopping center lacks destination stores.
The mall is known more for high crime rates and an ill-reputed nickname than its retail selection. Montgomery County Police responded to 432 calls at the mall in 2009 and 365 calls in 2010, according to police records.
Steve Silverman, director of the county's Department of Economic Development, said the county has been looking forward to concrete changes.
“We are waiting for something that gets past ideas and moves into the real proposal category,” Silverman said. “I haven’t heard of anything, yet.”
Silverman said the county would like to see more substantive steps forward for the mall, like “live” tenants who are ready to commit to a lease.
“We are looking for quality tenants,” he said. “We are not trying to suggest they go in one direction or another.”
Reemberto Rodriguez, director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, said while he was not sure what property owners were planning, any additional businesses would further the development of downtown Silver Spring.
“Every time there is good, healthy turnover in the community, in the end, that is a healthy thing,” Rodriguez said. “Any incoming, additional commercial activities that add value to the community and to the region would be welcomed.”
Petrie Ross Ventures bought the property in 2007, and Walter Petrie bought out his partners to become the sole owner in 2008. In 2007, the county approved plans to transform the mall into an 18- to 20-story building with offices and retail space. By adding several stories of office space on top, the five-story mall would total 647,497 square feet and attract big-name retailers, according to plans.
Little has changed, however. The mall has failed to attract well-known anchors and the structure’s height is unchanged.
In March 2010, Petrie Ross requested approval to redesign the streetscape, pedestrian walkways and signs at the mall’s main entrance. According to the 2010 plans, Petrie Ross wanted to modernize the facade, adding more prominent tenant signs, specialized lighting and a screen to announce events and ads.
Hutensky bought City Place at the end of July 2010 for $22.8 million and hired Petrie Ross to manage the property.
Jason An, a manager at Sports Town, a sporting goods store in City Place, said he had not heard about changes coming to the mall. He said Sports Town had been in the mall for 20 years and did not think any changes would affect the store.
“There are not that many stores to begin with in here,” An said. “I don’t think we are worried about it, though. We sell some pretty exclusive products.”