Monday, October 1, 2007

Westfield Group finally got the OK to go ahead with a massive expansion of Westfield Montgomery shopping center.

The Australian company recently won approval for the project from the Montgomery County Planning Board.

The 350,000-square-foot expansion is smaller than the 500,000 square feet originally planned in 2005. Since then, Westfield has received complaints from neighbors about the size of the project and also bought a nearby strip center, prompting the company to downsize the mall expansion.

The new section of the mall, at Democracy Boulevard and Westlake Drive in Bethesda, will have mini-anchors, specialty shops and restaurants in the “lifestyle” format, according to the company. The format uses open space inside to create the look of outdoor cafes and is a popular trend in new shopping centers. The existing Macy’s also will be expanded.

Specific retailers have not been announced.

“We’re going to take a strong and productive center and add energy to enhance the appeal and relevance to continue to position it as a destination,” said Katy Dickey, a Westfield spokeswoman.

The expansion will bring the center’s size to 1.6 million square feet, making it one of the largest shopping centers in the region behind Tysons Corner Center and Potomac Mills, and about the same size as Westfield Wheaton and Fair Oaks Mall.

The project is expected to cost $350 million. Westfield also has put money into other regional centers. It spent $100 million on an expansion to Westfield Annapolis that is expected to open next month. It spent $140 million on renovations to Westfield Wheaton in 2005.

The project is expected to start in January and take three to four years to complete.

Department stores open for business

The Washington area is getting two new department stores.

Bloomingdale’s opened its latest store last week in Chevy Chase. The 180,000-square-foot store is the third Washington-area location for the upscale brand.

The store, at 5300 Western Ave., had been slated to become a Hecht’s before Federated Department Stores Inc. (since renamed Macy’s Inc.) bought May Department Stores Co. in 2005.

Kohl’s is planning to open a new department store in Fredericksburg on Wednesday. The new store, at the intersection of Virginia Routes 1 and 17, is one of 95 Kohl’s stores opening that day across the country.

“We geared up our efforts to have a maximum impact on the market and coordinated marketing efforts around the country,” said Frank Signore, Kohl’s district manager for Northern Virginia.

The store will be Kohl’s second in Fredericksburg and 24th in Virginia since 1997.

In other news …

Star Restaurant Group, which owns Zola in the District and Indigo Landing in Alexandria, plans to open an Italian restaurant in the Woodward Building at 15th and H streets Northwest next fall. The restaurant also will have a bakery, according to the company.

Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at jhaberkorn@ or 202/636-4836.

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