Lakeforest Mall. Credit: Dan Schere

Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg will permanently close at the end of March, officials announced at a City of Gaithersburg Mayor and City Council meeting Tuesday evening.

Bob Dalrymple, partner at the law firm Selzer Gurvitch and land use counsel to South Carolina developer WRS Inc., said they want to begin the demolition process as soon as possible. However, financing on the mall requires it to remain for now. If redevelopment plans fall through, the goal would be to look at re-tenanting the mall. 

WRS Inc. hopes to demolish the mall by 2024. 

Plans are for Lakeforest to be redeveloped as part of a larger Lakeforest Master Plan, unanimously adopted by Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman and the City Council in August 2021.

According to officials, the master plan will be rezoned to include residential and commercial development, as well as green space. The redevelopment also proposes a new transit center and an outdoor entertainment district.

Macy’s earlier this month announced the impending closure of its Lakeforest location; It was the only remaining anchor store after the departure of Lord & Taylor, JCPenney and Sears.

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Since its opening in 1978, Lakeforest Mall had served as a popular meeting place for residents.

Many residents also shared their memories of Lakeforest Mall and their ideas for the new redevelopment plan at the public hearing on Tuesday evening.

Sarah Mina, an eighth grader and a resident of Cider Mill Apartment Complex in Montgomery Village, said, “I have many memories of Lakeforest Mall, but I also know there is hope for the area to be a better place for me and my community.” She asked that more youth spaces be incorporated in the redevelopment plans.

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Jaden, another resident in the area, stated he grew up around Lakeforest Mall and also witnessed its downfall in recent years. “I’ve had great memories of there but also see an opportunity [for the area to] open up and allow youth and teenagers [to] have a place to go to,” he said.

Quentin Cadot, a Montgomery Village resident, said he saw Lakeforest Mall as “a bit of a monument around here.” He said in his testimony, “There’s a lot of memories, many different generations running in and out of there [creating] different legacies. There were also a lot of locally owned shops that were running in and out of the mall that had to shut down.”

In recent years, the mall had been affected by a spate of crime. Last February, a 23-year-old T-Mobile employee was fatally stabbed near the food court. In November 2021, a man was fatally shot in the mall parking lot

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WRS officials 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