By Melissa Quinn
Though still far from reality, officials unveiled much-anticipated early plans for a revitalized Landmark Mall on Monday evening.
A crowd of more than 150 people gathered at the West End shopping center to watch city officials and representatives from the Howard Hughes Corp. detail plans to redevelop the stretch of the complex that the company owns between Macy’s and Sears.
The Dallas-based company’s proposal calls for demolishing the central region of the mall, replacing it with a mixed-use residential and retail complex. When finished, the development will boast more than 250,000 square feet of shopping and restaurant space.
“This is exciting in terms of what they have planned,” said Mayor Bill Euille, who gave opening remarks at the meeting. “Hopefully [the redevelopment] will be what we all would like to see.”
Landmark Mall’s redevelopment comes after years of anticipation. City officials announced several years ago that they would begin planning for the mall’s future — it was last renovated in 1990 — but that undertaking eventually fell through.
Plans for renovations and redevelopment gained new life after Howard Hughes took control of one-third of the mall in 2010, when previous owner Garden Growth Properties Inc. declared bankruptcy and spun off the company and a portion of its holdings. Macy’s and Sears own the rest of the development.
Howard Hughes’ vision includes one level devoted to retail outlets and restaurants, with the remaining allocated for residential units. The plan would create between 350 and 400 apartments.
The largest of the buildings will be around five or six stories, though the structures will get successively smaller as they near Duke Street.
As residents approach the future site, they’ll be greeted by a roundabout that leads to a pair of one-way roads lined with parking, with traffic heading toward additional spaces in the rear. Company officials hope to keep the parking deck but reserve rooftop parking for residents.
And officials hope to minimize traffic congestion with the new development. Bus stations will move to the ground level and eventually feature shelters to protect riders from the elements.
While the blueprints remain flexible, the company has discussed a two-story, dinner-style theater with a cinema operator. If all goes according to plan, visitors can enjoy a meal and then head upstairs for a film.
“It’s a very vibrant urban core,” said John Simon, executive vice president of Howard Hughes.
Still, changes to the central area hinge on the cooperation of retail giants Macy’s and Sears, whose stores border Howard Hughes’ property.
While many storefronts inside the mall, which was built in 1965, have long been abandoned, the two department stores continue to thrive, Simon said.
In the past, garnering the support of the stores for any major changes has been a challenge, but Simon said the company remains confident it’s close to getting Macy’s and Sears on board.
“Both of these stores are doing just fine without their lives being disrupted,” Simon said. “They’ve gotten used to the fact that there is no mall traffic going in and out of their doors.”
While many residents seemed excited about the future site, several worried about the T.C. Williams satellite campus and asked about the possibility of affordable housing.
The future of the satellite campus — which opened in the mall in the fall — is still up the air. As for affordable housing, the city has discussed setting aside units with residential developers, said Faroll Hammer, director of planning and zoning, though no definitive plans have been made.
Representatives from Howard Hughes — which owns residential and commercial properties from California to New York — hope to present their blueprint to the planning commission by the end of spring and finalize the design by mid-June.
If approved, demolition would begin next year, with the new Landmark emerging from the dust in spring 2016.
“Hopefully … it’ll be all the things we want it to be and what we envision,” Euille said. “And hopefully it works.”