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Wheaton Plaza Gets a Facelift

Published: Monday, August 29, 2005

Updated: Saturday, August 9, 2008 23:08

Montgomery County's own Wheaton Plaza has reaped the benefits of a $140 million redevelopment project, which includes the ongoing expansion of the 45 year-old plaza.

The newly redeveloped plaza, now known as Westfield Wheaton, seems to be a far cry from the original design, which opened in 1960 as an outdoor plaza and became the first regional shopping center in Montgomery County.

The new development is a 1.44 million-square-foot shopping mall, including new stores such as Macy's, Ann Taylor Loft, Guess?, Hollister, Express and Forever 21.

In July 2002, the former plaza began a multi-phase facelift, beginning with the establishment of Target, and the expansion and relocation of Giant. Shortly following was the addition of a small shopping center located in the west annex of the plaza that included a Starbucks, Quiznos, Wachovia, Nextel and Baja Fresh. A new Bally Total Fitness opened in November 2004.

"When Westfield made this deal, they saw the potential redevelopment for the entire area surrounding the shopping center," said Debbie Young, marketing manager for Westfield Wheaton. "Our goal is to increase the Primary Trade Area Market." The Australian-based company purchased the family-owned plaza in 1997, hoping to expand the mall to increase profits.

"This is a team effort between the city of Wheaton and several developers to revamp downtown Wheaton," Young said. "They are not only building up the mall, but adding several town homes and other businesses."

Retail store employees like Shay Thomas have seen a change in profits. "As far as sales, I have seen an increased volume of sales, and people are definitely buying more," said Thomas, who has worked with Victoria's Secret throughout the renovation process.

Although many customers appreciate the new renovations, mall employees feel that it is still of reflection of the pre-expansion Wheaton Plaza.

Ervin Horton, a Westfield customer service employee of eight years, feels that the renovation has not changed the environment of the mall. "The mall looks great, but the makeup of the clientele has not changed much," Horton said. "We still have the same security problems we had before."

Cassandra Bennett, a resident of Northeast Washington, still chooses to shop at other malls. "Wheaton has a lot to offer, but I would rather shop at Prince George's Plaza," Bennett said. "I rarely come here to shop, but the changes are nice."

The August 5th stabbing incident at the Wheaton Target store prompted some concern about security changes, but did little to dampen expansion plans. "This incident was related to a county problem with gang violence," Young said. "We have a strong security staff, and we are willing to work with the county."

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