In competitive Bethesda market, Westfield bets on indoor mall, dining terrace -- Gazette.Net


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As retail booms in Bethesda, Westfield Montgomery mall aims to stay competitive by rebranding its food court with upscale decor and dining options.

Westfield Montgomery mall’s building project, at least a year and a half in the making, is set to double the size of the mall’s food court, which is being rebranded as a dining terrace.

Fast-food joints are being replaced by fast-casual concepts, the lighting and color scheme look more up-to-date, and a new valet lounge has flat-screen TVs for people to watch while waiting for their cars.

Perhaps the biggest change is a new level added above the dining area for an ArcLight Cinemas movie theater and several full-service restaurants.

Diego Gonzalez-Zuniga, marketing manager of the mall, said the goal is to make the dining terrace the “new front door of the property.”

As White Flint Mall in the Kensington-North Bethesda area shuts down for redevelopment into the mixed-use, town-square model, Westfield Montgomery is hoping a higher-end ambience and higher-end dining can keep customers coming to the indoor shopping mall.

“The D.C. and Bethesda market is a very competitive market,” Gonzalez-Zuniga said during a media event Wednesday.

Eric Howard, senior general manager of the mall, said the dining terrace will move away from the quick-serve restaurants typically associated with food courts. The renovation is part of a larger project to bring a “higher-end aesthetic” throughout the mall, Howard said.

The dining terrace is planned to have food options visitors can’t find everywhere, Gonzalez-Zuniga said.

“We’re really kind of evolving out of your typical food court,” he said.

The theater and some of the new restaurants are expected to open this fall. Westfield Montgomery mall is on Democracy Boulevard in Bethesda near the Interstate 270 spur.

The new dining terrace, expected to finish construction within the next couple of weeks, is part of a $90 million renovation at the mall. Westfield also is remodeling some storefronts and bringing in new retail, Howard said.

“This move will help position us as the retail destination of choice within Bethesda,” Howard said.

The new movie theater, on a new level above the dining area, is the first location for ArcLight Cinemas outside California, said Gretchen McCourt, ArcLight executive vice president.

ArcLight sells most of its movie tickets online, doing away with the box office, and has reserved seating.

“If you choose, you can get there 30 seconds before it starts,” McCourt said.

The theater is expected to have 16 screens, a bar and cafe, traditional concessions options, and seats designed by BMW. Ticket prices have not been set, but typically run about 20 percent higher than for other theaters in the market, McCourt said.

ewaibel@gazette.net