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Maryland mall gets key OK.

WASHINGTON (FNS)--A planned 2.1-million-square-foot shopping mall in Silver Spring, Md., has moved a step closer to reality with the endorsement of a top local official.

Montgomery County executive Douglas M. Duncan said he is backing a bid by Triple Five Development, creators of the Mall of America, to build a complex of shops, restaurants, recreational facilities and a 425-room hotel in downtown Silver Spring.

Triple Five's proposal still has several more hurdles to clear before construction can begin, including securing approvals from the county council and the planning board. The groundbreaking is not likely to happen for between 18 and 24 months.

Triple Five, owned by the Ghermezian family of Alberta, Canada, built the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., and the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, the two largest malls in North America.

Although only half the size of the Mall of America, Silver Spring's proposed American Dream center would still be one of the ten largest malls in the country, said Martin Walrath, the project director:

Between 500,000 and 600,000 square feet of the proposed complex will be devoted to shopping. Recreational facilities such as a waterpark and icepalace will take up 350,000 square feet. Restaurants, a hotel and theaters will comprise the remainder.

Triple Five will begin searching for retail tenants at this spring's International Council of Shopping Centers convention, said Walrath. Because Silver Spring has failed to attract department stores in the past, department-store anchors are unlikely.

More probable is a plan to enlist four or five "mini-anchors" of 25,000 to 50,000 square feet each. One or two of the mini-anchors would be fashion stores on the order of a Barneys. Possibilities for the other anchors include a computer-oriented store, a sporting goods store or a retailer related to a movie studio or other entertainment company.

"We definitely want to distinguish ourselves from the (area's) existing regional shopping malls," said Walrath. Entertainment-oriented stores and theme restaurants such as Fashion Cafe will also be prominent in the mall.

Tourists are expected to comprise 20 percent to 30 percent of the mall's visitors and about 40 percent of dollar sales, according to Walrath. The mall would be located about nine miles from the major tourist sites in Washington, D.C.

Triple Five has been working on the Silver Spring project since April of 1995, when Montgomery County solicited proposals for an urban renewal project from dozens of developers. The 27-acre parcel in downtown Silver Spring is run-down and has been losing business tenants for years.

Over the last year, the county has held several public hearings and weighed the advice of consultants, environmentalists, the business community and residents. Although some locals oppose the project on grounds that it would cause traffic congestion and would change the feel of the neighborhood, a citizens' advisory board voted overwhelmingly last week to endorse Triple Five's plan.

If all goes according to plan, Triple Five estimates that the mall, whose formal name is American Dream: A Town Center for Silver Spring, will open in the fall of 1999.

Tracy M. Baynard, director of the retail services committee of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, said Triple Five is fighting an uphill battle because of dense retail competition.

Nevertheless, Baynard said the developers are on the right track with the proposed combination of stores, recreation facilities, theme restaurants and entertainment, which will significantly differentiate the mall from its rivals. The American Dream also has the advantage of being on a subway line, unlike most of the local malls, she noted.

Armond Spikell, a vice president of the retail brokerage Smithy Braedon, said the mall may have problems attracting shoppers from around the region because of a perception that Silver Spring is crime-ridden and downscale.

"It's not that it isn't a viable retail location, but to support that size project they're envisioning, they will have to draw from quite a ways," Spikell said. "The downtown area has suffered from neglect

They'll have to take extra care with security to make sure people feel safe."
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Title Annotation:includes related article on tourism and shopping malls; planning and development of Silver Spring, Maryland shopping mall
Author:Emert, Carol
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Apr 1, 1996
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