A modern facade, an entertainment complex, more entrances and a redesigned pedestrian walkway are just few of the new planned features at the CityPlace Mall in Silver Spring.
At a Jan. 14 meeting of the Silver Spring Arts and Entertainment Advisory Committee, Petrie Ross Ventures representatives annouced that the mall’s name will change to Ellsworth Place Mall, and the fifth floor, where the AMC used to be, will now be an entertainment lounge with bars, restaurants and bowling lanes.
But some have concerns about how Petrie Ross Ventures — CityPlace Mall property manager since 2010 — will maintain the aspects of a mid-century modern, and clean lines facade on the historic entrance at the corner of Fenton Street and Colesville Road.
The CityPlace site is listed on the Master Plan for Historic Preservation as site 36/7, and states that any “future reuse should retain the original facade intact.”
The concerns are around enhancements that include a Jumbotron — a large billboard screen — and signage to entice customer on the streets to visit the renovated mall.
Karen Burditt, architect at Esocoff & Associates and a Silver Spring resident, spoke at the meeting about the concerns on covering the facade. In an interview, she said that by covering the vertical lines with specialized lighting and signages, the elegance and sophistication of that corner will be lost.
“They can do better. They should do better. This is a historic building,” Burditt said.
Burditt explained she “fully supports” the redevelopment, but said a good example of “wrapping” a building to “make look” more modern is the Fillmore in downtown Silver Spring.
“It is the whole idea of the 1950s supposed to be a ‘Mad Man’ look ... very elegant,” said Burditt, adding that CityPlace mall owners are covering “what’s a very nice architectural detail with lights and people will forget what’s behind.”
Chris Duffy, vice president of Petrie Ross Ventures, said at the meeting the company has complied with all regulations such as installing signage that will fit with the existing architectural features, maintaining the historical shape and configuration and avoiding damage to the existing building.
Duffy added that owners received approval from the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, and changes are very “modest” modifications of the external part of the building.
Duffy said he believes after renovations are done, the Ellsworth Place side of the building will become a new point of vibrant activity.
“This is the historical side of the building. So, we are somewhere limited on what we can do. We’ve worked with staff at the Department of Planning ... but we are really not impacting the face on the building much. ... The clock will remain,” Duffy said at the meeting.
The mall, built in the late 1980s, languishes behind its adjacent neighbor that was redeveloped by Downtown Silver Spring properties owned by Peterson Cos.
Mall officials said 50 percent of the mall is vacant, and the shopping center lacks destination stores.
In March 2010, Petrie Ross requested approval to redesign the streetscape, pedestrian walkways and signs at the mall’s main entrance. According to the 2010 plans, Petrie Ross wanted to modernize the facade, adding more prominent tenant signs, specialized lighting and a screen to announce events and ads.
Mall officials said more than three years were necessary to draw a marketing plan and negotiate with possible tenants.
Reemberto Rodriguez, director of the Silver Spring Regional Services Center, wrote in an email to The Gazette that a more lively interior and exterior use of CityPlace will be a major positive and constructive addition to downtown Silver Spring, and at the same time being respectful to the historical elements.
“I am confident this can be done in a way that compliments the cultural — and economic — vitality this redevelopment bring to the area,” Rodriguez wrote.
Duffy could not reveal the names of potential tenants due to a confidentiality agreement before all the required paperwork is signed. But he confirmed that Marshall’s and Burlington Coat Factory will remain in the building.
Renovations are intended to start in the next few months, and grand reopening of Ellsworth Place is set for 2015.