Posts about Springfield
As enclosed malls continue to decline and close, more and more retailers are opting to locate in pedestrian-friendly urban districts.
3 years ago, I expressed sentiments that the car-oriented shopping mall was a business model with no future. The events since have offered further proof that retailers and customers now prefer an urban format, at least in our region.
Recent news that Bloomingdale's in White Flint and Macy's in Laurel will close has little to do with the sales performance of those stores, and everything to do with their host malls being unable to survive. Both have been visibly declining for years, and will soon be redeveloped into mixed-use walkable urban places.
The Laurel Macy's has managed to remain open for years despite much of its host mall being shuttered. That store would likely have closed years ago if it wasn't making money, especially in the wake of the Great Recession.
Similarly, if it had not been profitable the White Flint Bloomingdale's would have closed in 2007 when another location of the luxury retailer opened a mere 3 Metro stations away.
Within the Favored Quarter, the most economically competitive and healthy part of our region, only the largest and most dynamic enclosed malls are continuing to thrive. The rest are slowly dying.
In Maryland, Montgomery Mall is the most vibrant, while in Virginia the Tysons cluster reigns supreme.
When the White Flint redevelopment plan was approved in 2010, it provided the owners of White Flint Mall the opportunity to earn a healthier profit by giving the market more of what it wants: walkable urbanism.
Elsewhere in the region the malls are doing as bad or worse. Most have either closed or are in the process of being converted to walkable town centers.
Arlington has had success turning the area around its two enclosed malls into mixed-use towns, first at Ballston and now at Pentagon City, where the process is still under way.
In Prince George's County, the area around the Mall at Prince George's (formerly Prince George's Plaza) has been undergoing a process similar to Pentagon City. At Bowie Town Center, County officials are looking at adding more entertainment and housing options.
Meanwhile, urban shopping areas that I mentioned three years ago have increased in prominence:
In the District of Columbia, there are four shopping districts that support clusters of national retail chains that are usually mall-based: Downtown (Old Downtown clustered around Metro Center), Connecticut Avenue between Farragut Square and Dupont Circle, Friendship Heights, and Georgetown. Columbia Heights is emerging and has a different mix of retailers.Urban-format suburban shopping districts also continue to thrive and grow.
Silver Spring's retail is more vibrant than ever. The space vacated by Borders was quickly filled by Smart Toys. Bethesda and Clarendon are continually adding to their mixture of chains and smaller upscale retailers. Wheaton is a work in progress.
Even outside the Beltway, urbanism is catching on. Rockville Town Square and Gaithersburg's Washingtonian Center are growing, and National Harbor is setting the standard for Prince George's County. Two decades ago, all those developments likely would have been enclosed malls.
While purely car-dependent malls aren't going to go completely extinct, they are becoming far more rare. In the future, it is likely the only enclosed malls that remain will be the largest super-regional "winners" inside the Favored Quarter. Meanwhile, no new malls are planned.
As the 21st Century continues, both living and dead mall sites will be either be completely redeveloped or will evolve into mixed-use walkable urban places. Retailers will continue clustering at transit-oriented, walkable urban locations, both downtown and at new suburban "uptowns."
At the end of a long trail ride, my friend and I faced the daunting challenge of getting from Accotink Creek to the Franconia-Springfield Metro station by bicycle. We soon found out that Old Keene Mill Road in Springfield has a long way to go before it is fully accessible for all users. Sidewalks, at the very least, are needed.
After I negotiated the bus bridge between the two Falls Church stations on the Orange Line with my bike to meet my friend at Vienna, he and I enjoyed a ride along the length of Fairfax's Cross-County Trail.
The trail's piecemeal construction over the past decade is the result of a partnership between grassroots citizens and volunteers, who had been pushing for a trail since the mid-1990s, and the county government. Volunteers maintain the trail largely by clearing litter and debris and keeping up trail-side benches. Many sections of the trail, though, remain incomplete and in various states of repair, limiting safe access.
We wound down the banks of Accotink Creek, through quiet woods separating cul-de-sac neighborhoods, and past baseball fields lying in floodplains that seemed hard to access by car. We made our way the north shore of Lake Accotink, pausing at its marina. On the trail's southernmost end, we encountered evidence of both September's flood damage and very recent repairs.
I had planned the route to end at the Franconia station; from there we would take Metro with our bikes back into town. I did so assuming that there would be a sidewalk, or at least a wide shoulder, on the stretch of Old Keene Mill Road between the trail's end at Hunter Village Drive and the turn onto Frontier Drive. No such luck.
Faced with the prospect of pedaling up this hill in the rightmost of four narrow lanes of speeding traffic, we opted to walk our bikes along the road's rocky right edge:
After we finally made it to an area with a sidewalk (albeit a very narrow one), it soon ended as we neared the crossing of I-95. Just past Backlick Road, we reached a point where we had to dodge cars exiting on two rightward on-ramps in order to stay on Franconia Road. We made it.
At the other side of the Interstate, we found sidewalks the rest of the way to the Metro station. But we left with the impression that cyclists are not welcome to actually ride bikes to the southern head of the Cross-County Trail, particularly when coming from Metro.
Not only that, but Old Keene Mill Road's design is highly unsafe for Metrobus and Fairfax Connector riders (never mind that this route doesn't operate on weekends). How is someone supposed to get to this bus stop without jaywalking or bushwhacking?
Fairfax County planners should re-examine Springfield's major arterial roads to ensure that they are safe and accessible to pedestrians, cyclists, and bus riders. Simply adding a sidewalk on this section of Old Keene Mill Road would go a long way.
suggesting a SmartBike system for Montgomery County, with stations "in the downtowns of high-density area such as Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Wheaton and Bethesda." How about making it compatible with DC's, so someone could one day pick up a bike in Bethesda, ride to Friendship Heights or Tenleytown to do some shopping, and bike home? (Gazette)
21st Century solutions, amen: Montgomery County shouldn't be transforming intersections into huge flyovers, Anne Ambler of Wheaton (and a board member of the Montgomery County Sierra Club) argues in a letter in the Gazette. Instead, Maryland should spend its scarce resources to "reduce the traffic going through by providing alternatives that, incidentally, would help to reduce greenhouse gases as well."
Road diet Catch-22: Rockville officials want to give Darnestown Road a "road diet", reports the Gazette. DOT officials won't ban trucks because it's an arterial, and have to designate it an arterial because of truck traffic. "'I read that book, it's called "Catch-22,"' Mayor Susan R. Hoffmann joked during Monday's meeting." Planners are considering a broader "complete streets" policy for Rockville.
Disappointment and a little hope: Burtonsville's downtown revitalization plan is very modest, with few pedestrian improvements; the NOAA building planned for College Park appears entirely auto-centric; without the Army, Springfield's best hope is transforming its mall.
Meanwhile, in DC: DC will now recycle more stuff, including plastic bags, mike and juice cartons, and almost anything plastic; teens are overrunning Gallery Place; and the former Post executive editor admits that Washington isn't so bad (the good stuff about the actual city is on page 2).
- Young kids try to assault me while biking
- Metro bag searches aren't always optional
- Focus transportation on downtown or neighborhoods?
- Endless zoning update delay hurts homeowners
- Redeveloping McMillan is the only way to save it
- DDOT agrees to repave 15th Street cycle track
- Vienna Metro town center won't have a town center