- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2005

Like many high school students, Carla Suarez and Else Bonfield go shopping almost every weekend.

So when Tysons Corner Center, already the Washington area’s largest shopping center, held a grand opening for its new 362,000-square-foot wing yesterday, it called for a bit of a celebration.

“We skipped school to come here,” said Miss Suarez, 18.

They were among the first to visit the mall’s new three-story wing, which holds five restaurants, a 10-unit food court, a 16-screen AMC movie theater and 20 stores, including many that target teens and young adults, like clothing stores Urban Outfitters, H&M; and Hollister & Co. Also packed into the expansion is a Barnes & Noble bookstore and Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant.

The new stores are in space previously leased to JC Penney. When the department store announced it would close in 2003, Macerich Co., the Santa Monica, Calif., real estate company that owns Tysons, built the expansion for restaurant and movie entertainment offerings. The mall has been without a movie complex since Sony Theatres closed in 1997.

“We found the mall needed an entertainment factor,” said Kathy Hannon, senior property manager of Tysons. “When JC Penney closed, we took advantage of it to build additional entertainment features and restaurants.”

The AMC theaters are expected to draw 2 million customers per year.

Tysons’ expansion is part of an industrywide move toward broadening the appeal of a shopping mall, said Patrice Duker, spokeswoman for the International Council of Shopping Centers in New York.

“It adds to the overall appeal of the center because it gives another option for consumers,” Mrs. Duker said. “Malls are making a move to broaden that appeal. You can go shopping and eat or catch a movie, go to a comedy club, a children’s museum or a post office.”

The expansion includes a number of chain stores new to the Washington area: Brio Tuscan Grille restaurant, Oakley sunglasses store, Sony Style technology story, Z Gallerie and West Elm furniture stores and clothing stores Banana Republic Petites, Espirit, Laila Rowe, the North Face and Papaya.

“It’s a lot of upscale retailers who don’t have a presence in the Washington market. Tysons is fortunate to be able to snag them for this project,” said Mark Millman, president of Millman Search Group, a Baltimore retail and shopping center consulting firm.

Stephanie King comes to Tysons from Silver Spring a couple times a month for shopping.

“I’ll probably come here more with all the new stores,” Ms. King said yesterday at the grand opening. “I’m excited.”

Analysts say the expansion will likely bring new customers, too.

“Whenever you have an expansion of upscale specialty stores, you add a new dimension to the mall, additional traffic and new customers that may have never visited the center before but want to shop the new retail stores,” Mr. Millman said.

The new wing is Tyson’s first major renovation in more than 15 years.

“To stay competitive, malls need to reinvent themselves every eight to 10 years,” Gerry Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said yesterday after the opening of one of the county’s strongest sources of sales tax revenue.

The expansion adds 1,000 new jobs to Fairfax and 1,675 new spots to the parking lot.

Macerich also designed speed ramps on existing garages so drivers can take one ramp directly to the top of the structure, making better use of the garage.

The expansion brings Tysons’ square footage up to 2.3 million. That’s more than 40 football fields, but it doesn’t stop the determined shopper.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Chris Matthews, a Fort Belvoir resident who visited Tysons with his family for the first time yesterday. “We just realized we missed a whole floor!”

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