The owners of the Silver Spring mall formerly known as City Place completed a study earlier this year that projected 9 million annual pedestrian trips through the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive in front of their property.
Other than the mall’s tenants that open directly onto Ellsworth—think Chipotle, McGinty’s Public House and Noodles & Co.—City Place retailers weren’t benefiting from what has become one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in downtown Silver Spring.
“Unfortunately, [City Place] never really caught on. It has always struggled,” said Terry Richardson, president and CEO of Annapolis-based developer and mall owner Petrie Richardson Ventures. “And then, you’ve got all the great things happening all around us. It sort of became the hole in the doughnut.”
In 2012, backed by financing from a new partnership with Rockwood Capital, the owners of the former City Place decided to try to remake the downtrodden mall with a less than stellar reputation by opening it up and embracing the rest of a revitalized downtown Silver Spring.
The result is Ellsworth Place, a $75 million renovation headlined by a new Dave & Buster’s that will open next year in the fifth-floor former movie theater space that’s sat vacant since 2004.
Richardson said it’s no accident that Ellsworth, the name of the street the property shares with the widely acclaimed Downtown Silver Spring retail project, figures prominently in the mall’s new name.
“The old mall was very fortress-like,” Richardson said. “We wanted to open it up to the outside and provide that connectivity to everything around us. It’s going to feel like one big commercial complex.”
There are new entrances to the mall on Ellsworth Drive and Colesville Road that will lead directly into anchor stores Michael’s and Marshalls, respectively. Existing entrances were made larger with bigger windows, more signage and, hanging over two corners of the property, large Jumbotrons.
One of Ellsworth Place's two new big screens hanging over the corner of Colesville Road and Fenton Street. Credit: Aaron Kraut
The former AMC movie theater space that will be home to Dave & Buster's at Ellsworth Place. Credit: Aaron Kraut
The new Colesville Road entrance, almost directly across the street from The Fillmore concert venue, includes a set of escalators that provide access to every floor, including the fifth-floor entrance to the future Dave & Buster’s. The 40,000-square-foot location of the Dallas-based entertainment and restaurant chain should be ready to open in late summer or early fall of 2016, general manager Bill Finkel said.
“In order to distinguish the property, we needed an entertainment component synergistic with [Downtown Silver Spring’s] Regal Theater, whose cinema next door is doing twice the national average in ticket sales,” Richardson said. “You have the [Silver Spring] Civic Building, The Fillmore, the AFI Theatre. There’s so much entertainment here so for us, the commitment from Dave & Buster’s is very important.”
Gone is the Art Deco design style in place since City Place opened in 1992. In its place is what Richardson labeled a vintage industrial theme modeled on the Chelsea Market food court, shopping mall and office building in Manhattan.
A new common area provides seating, a play area for kids, free wireless Internet and soon, a coffee kiosk.
New anchor store T.J. Maxx opened last month. Ross, Michael’s, Forever 21 Red, Foot Locker and restaurant Not Your Average Joe’s are expected to open over the next six months.
The future Michael's store location, which includes a new escalator entrance off Ellsworth Drive. Credit: Aaron Kraut
Richardson said the “value-oriented” department stores prefer to be located in the same shopping centers. T.J. Maxx and Marshalls are owned by the same parent company.
“It’s critical mass for them,” Richardson said. “The shopper who is going to go shop at T.J. Maxx, they’re going to shop there and then they’re going to go over to Ross and then they’re going to walk over to Burlington Coat Factory. It’s a wide offering within the same building.”
Much of the mall’s renovation process involved finding ways to create more access while preserving the ability to build an already approved 200,000-square-foot office complex on top of the structure.
Richardson said the developer has no plans to build out the office space unless a specific major tenant commits.
The developer expects to hold a formal celebration next spring or summer, as more of the new anchor tenants open.