As the trial between White Flint mall’s owners and Lord & Taylor continues at U.S. District Court in Greenbelt this week, new plans released in court documents show how the retail store will fit into the mall’s redevelopment.
The plan shows some of the first possible updates to the sketch plan since it was first approved by Montgomery County’s planning department in 2012.
A drawing in the exhibit shows retail space sizes, locations of plazas and vehicular and pedestrian routes through the first phase of development.
The exhibit also shows detailed square footage for retail slots surrounding Lord & Taylor’s store as well as what a Rockville Pike Promenade, retail plaza and the central piazza could look like.
A sketch plan submitted as an exhibit in the ongoing trial.
Granted, the plans could change when the mall’s owners—Lerner Enterprises and The Tower Cos.—formally submit a site plan to the planning department in the future.
A note at the bottom of the images says, “Drawings are conceptual only and illustratively represent the project. Final building locations, dimensions, heights, uses, number of residential units and development standards and programs will be finally determined at the time of future site plan applications.”
The images were attached as exhibits in a motion filed Sunday by the attorneys for the mall’s owners. The motion was filed to ask the judge to instruct the jury that they account for Lord & Taylor’s future potential earnings at a redeveloped mall site.
Lord & Taylor’s attorneys contested the motion, saying any potential earnings at a redeveloped mall site is “speculative.”
The trial centers around whether the mall’s owners violated a 1975 easement agreement with Lord & Taylor to maintain the mall as a “first-class shopping center” until at least 2042. Lord & Taylor is claiming that by closing the mall and beginning demolition to make way for the redevelopment that the mall’s owners violated the agreement and have hurt the profitability of its store.
To build its case, attorneys for the mall’s owners are trying to prove that Lord & Taylor’s store will be more profitable if the redevelopment happens, and that the jury should account for this in making its ruling.
Charts attached to the site plans show 533 residential units and 589,000 square feet of retail development as part of the first construction phase. Alan Gottlieb, Lerner’s chief operating officer, testified during the trial on Aug. 5 that phase one could be built in about three-and-a-half years, according to a transcript of his remarks.
The residential units would range from one- to three-bedrooms and could include “very small commuter units” called micro-units, according to Gottleib. He said Lerner sees a “void” in the local residential market due to new jobs being created at the nearby National Institutes of Health and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
A breakdown of the square footage and residential units of buildings planned in the first two phases of development that was submitted as an exhibit in the trial.
Gottleib said he has seen strong rental statistics from other developments such as The JBG Companies’ North Bethesda Marketplace and Federal Realty’s Pike & Rose.
“I think the market’s got a lot of room for growth,” Gottleib testified.
The retail in the plan calls for 258,600 square feet of ground-floor “in-line” retail as well as an additional 330,500 square feet of “other” retail. Gottleib testified that the other retail will likely be entertainment venues and a grocery store.
A phase two development would add two residential buildings along Rockville Pike. One, a 19-story building, would include about 178 residential units and about 223,000 square feet of retail space, according to Gottleib. The other would be a 16-story building with 166 residential units and 46,800 square feet of retail space. This phase of the development also shows a Bethesda Row-like “Rockville Pike Promenade” with a tree-lined retail street, according to the images.
The updated sketch plan images shed a bit more light on the mall’s redevelopment. Updates on the project have been near non-existent since Lord & Taylor filed its suit in 2013.
The sketch plan approved by the planning department in 2012 provides information about the full redevelopment project, which was pitched then to include about 1 million square feet of office space, 2,400 residential units, 1 million square feet of retail space and a 280,000 square foot hotel.
The original phase 1 sketch plan approved by the planning department in 2012. Credit: Montgomery County Planning Department
According to Gottleib’s testimony, the hotel and office space, which would be built at the site of the parking structure attached to Lord & Taylor, remain a point of contention.
Gottleib said the four buildings Lerner plans to construct where that parking structure stands now would be put on hold so that the parking structure can continue to service the Lord & Taylor store while other phase 1 buildings are being constructed. The Lerner executive also said two residential buildings, labeled M-2 and N-2 in the images, may require consent from Lord & Taylor to construct because they are located close to or adjoining the store.
Lord & Taylor’s attorneys wrote in a court filing that the plans by the mall’s owners have not been finalized: “Defendant’s own witnesses have testified that (1) it does not know if it will build any of the buildings which would be situated on Lord & Taylor’s parking lots and garages; (2) it does not know if it will build anything beyond Phase I of the Sketch Plan; (3) it has not signed a lease with a single tenant for the redevelopment…”
Before the trial, Lerner executives and attorneys said they were struggling to find financing for the redevelopment due to the ongoing lawsuit.
An aerial view of the White Flint Mall site via Google Maps.
The buildings planned for all three phases of development as presented in the 2012 approved sketch plan.