Our View: West End readies for a Landmark redevelopment

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(Photo/Chris Teale)

A fresh calendar year is accompanied by a sense of “out with the old, in with the new.” We put our holiday decorations back into storage and resolve to sleep more, drink less, exercise more, stress less and so on in the New Year. Sometimes changes are short-lived and sometimes they endure and actually improve our lives.

The start of 2017 has brought announcements of economic change in Alexandria that in the short term will be disruptive but enhance our city in the long run. First came notice that Macy’s is closing its store at Landmark Mall as part of a nationwide paring back of more than 100 locations.

Then the Howard Hughes Corporation, which owns Landmark Mall, said it had purchased the Macy’s piece of the property, clearing a major hurdle to redevelopment of the site. The 20 or so smaller retailers and service providers still open in Landmark also received notice to vacate their stores by January 31.

As is often the case, after years of waiting and delays on redevelopment of the Landmark property, everything seems to be happening in a flurry.

First, the disruptions need to be noted, because they are real. Probably around 200 people will lose their jobs as a result of the store closings: 119 Macy’s employees and dozens more as the other Landmark businesses shut down. And people who live near Landmark and shop at the establishments there will have to go elsewhere. The closing of the rest of the mall leaves the Sears store — one of the site’s long-term anchors — in limbo.

That said, movement on Landmark redevelopment is good news for Alexandria. The mall was sorely outdated and for years has seen a decline in the number of open stores and regular patrons.

Redevelopment of this prime West End location has been high on the city’s wish list since before the Times printed its first issue 12 years ago. In recent years, it appeared action was tantalizingly close, as twice the city green-lighted revamp proposals. But a slow economy and logistical hurdles continued to delay action.

Now, along with a new year, Alexandria is gifted with the real possibility that a well-done reworking of the Landmark site will serve as an economic catalyst for the city’s West End. A vibrant mixed-use community can have a ripple effect on a much larger surrounding area: think Ballston and Clarendon in Arlington County.

Redevelopment of Landmark will provide construction jobs and then permanent employment in the retail and service establishments once the project is completed. Tax revenues also should increase significantly once the new concept is built.

In fact, the only thing tempering our enthusiasm from cartwheels to a more measured “thumbs up” is that we have gotten close to the altar before with redevelopment of the mall, only to come away jilted.

Here’s hoping we see shovels in the ground at Landmark in 2017.

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