Lakeforest Mall. Credit: Dan Schere

Macy’s, the last of the anchor stores at Gaithersburg’s beleaguered Lakeforest Mall, will close in the first quarter of this year, company officials confirmed. Its departure was preceded in recent years by Lord & Taylor, JCPenney and Sears.

The store closures were first reported by Axios.

Once a community gathering spot, Lakeforest Mall has suffered from attrition and crime in recent years. In February of 2022, Jose Alexander Maldonado, 23, a T-Mobile employee, was fatally stabbed near the food court. In November 2021, Terrance Donte Dimes, 29, was fatally shot in the mall parking lot. Campaigning last fall for county executive, Republican nominee Reardon Sullivan pointed specifically to Lakeforest as an example of violent crime trends in the county.

Lakeforest is currently being redeveloped as part of the Lakeforest Master Plan, which was unanimously passed by the Gaithersburg City Council in 2021. The plan includes a mix of residential and commercial development, as well as green space.

Lakeforest is one of four sites Macy’s plans to close in the first quarter. The other stores are in Los Angeles; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Kaneohe, Hawaii.

The store closures are part of Macy’s Polaris transformation strategy launched in 2020, which aims to “stabilize profitability and position the company for growth,” according to a February 2020 release on Macy’s official website. As part of the strategy, Macy’s planned to close about 125 stores in lower tier malls within three years, and explore “new off-mall formats.”

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In a statement to Bethesda Beat, a Macy’s spokesperson confirmed the closures and stated, “As part of our Polaris transformation strategy, we continue to optimize and reposition our store fleet to ensure we have the right mix of on-mall and off-mall stores to better serve our customers and effectively support omnichannel market sales growth.”

Macy’s stated it was “committed to offering impacted colleagues a role in nearby locations or severance packages.”

Lakeforest Mall, which first opened in 1978, was bought by South Carolina developer WRS in 2019. However, its four anchor store properties–Lord & Taylor, JCPenney, Sears and Macy’s–could not be acquired by WRS and remained under their parent companies. Lord & Taylor, JCPenney and Sears have since closed, with Macy’s the sole surviving anchor store, until now.

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WRS did not immediately respond to Bethesda Beat’s request for comment.

Apps Bichu reports on growth and justice. She can be reached at apps.bichu@bethesdamagazine.com