Mall expansion on hold
It’s been more than a year since the owners of Westfield Montgomery mall revealed plans for a massive redevelopment project. The work was supposed to begin last spring, but so far nothing has happened. Why not? Because the county recently banned the construction of new housing in neighborhoods where the schools are already overcrowded — and that includes the Walter Johnson High School cluster near the mall. The year-long residential building moratorium, which began July 1, is intended to slow down the flow of new students while MCPS figures out how to manage them. The mall’s redevelopment plan calls for more than 700 new apartments and condos along with office space, a hotel, a huge new gym and an outdoor shopping and dining area. But none of it is going to happen, we’re told, until the housing component can move forward. So where does that leave us between now and the summer of 2020? Read on.
What's going to happen to the Sears building?
The mall’s former Sears building, empty since last January, was supposed to be demolished by now to make way for new construction. Instead, the empty building will be rented out to a series of temporary tenants. First up: Halloween City, now open on the mall’s second floor with costumes, decor and lots of creepy inflatables.
Is Life Time still building a new gym at the mall?
A couple of months ago, Westfield Montgomery mall was thisclose to announcing plans for a snazzy new Life Time Athletic club complete with rooftop pool. The gym would have been built near the site of the old Sears building, with a separate parking lot and easy access to the rest of the mall. Ironically, the delay of the mall’s redevelopment plans may actually have helped secure the future of Life Time’s existing club in Rockville. At first, we were hearing that the older facility would close its doors once the fancier new one opened. But now it appears that the Rockville club will remain in place as new housing is built all around it. Meanwhile, it’s going to be at least a couple more years before the mall gets a gym of its own.
New in the Dining Terrace: poke and pastries
On the dining front at Westfield Montgomery mall, we have two pieces of good news. The long-awaited Poké Papa finally opens its doors this weekend, offering customizable bowls of raw fish and Hawaiian-style toppings plus specialty desserts like mango snow ice. Also, there’s a new European bakery on the way: Patisserie Manuel, relocating from Silver Spring, is moving into the old Wicked Waffle space with plans to open before Thanksgiving. Owner Claudia Olea, a Chilean-born chef with classical French training, will be serving croissants, soups, sandwiches and crepes as well as cookies, pastries, macarons, specialty cakes and Illy coffee. “I will also be doing some Chilean cuisine,” she says. “Empanadas will definitely be part of the menu.”