Costco is coming to Wheaton whether gas station is approved or not.  According to a report in this week’s Gazette Newspaper.

Costco has notified the county executives that they will come to Wheaton with or without the proposed gas station.  The request to fast track the gas station approval has been withdrawn and Costco has agreed to proceed with the longer approval process.  Approval for the store and the gas station will proceed separately.

This is great for Wheaton and Westfield Wheaton.  I think this store will bring much needed revenue to the area and of course JOBS.

The Montgomery County Planning Board approved the preliminary plan for an 18 story Safeway and apartment complex in downtown Wheaton, paving the way for construction to start by spring 2011.

The project slated for the 2 acre site at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Reedie Drive will include Safeway on the first floor, an underground parking garage and a 500 unit apartment complex above the store.

County planners and commissioners agreed that the Safeway project is key to revitalizing downtown Wheaton.  I couldn’t agree more.  This project will not only bring life to the downtown area, I think it will spur movement on additional projects that have been planned for Wheaton.

The developers will bring the finalized plans to the Planning Board within the next three months and hopefully will begin construction by the spring of 2011.

A majority of County Council members oppose a plan to speed up the process of bringing a Costco warehouse store and gas station to the Westfield Wheaton Shopping Center by skipping the normal zoning procedure.  What do you think?

I support the plans for Costco to open at Westfiled Wheaton Mall and reuse the long vacant Hecht’s space.  I believe this will be good for Wheaton and can also help with efforts to find developers needed to spur and continue Wheaton’s Redevelopment Plans.  But, I support the council’s opposition to fast tracking Costco.  The environmental impact of the proposed gas station should be studied thoroughly before any approvals are given.  I want to see Wheaton grow.  I want to see the redevlopment efforts succeed.   Wheaton has one of the largest business districts in the county and with successful redevelopment efforts, Wheaton can become a vibrant community with a healthy, walkable downtown business district.  Let’s make sure we do it right!

The County Council, which will have a public hearing 7:30 p.m. May 20 in the Stella B. Werner Council building’s seventh floor, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville. The public hearing was postponed this week from April 20 to May 20.

What’s your opinion?

Read the full article in the Gazette……..

A majority of Montgomery County Council members support spending $4 million to subsidize the opening of a Costco in the Westfield Wheaton Shopping Center. Costco wants to include a gas station at the site, what’s your opinion?

Read the full article from the Gazette……

Report predicts that Wheaton’s growth will outpace the rest of the county by 2.5 times over the next 30 years.

Wheaton Plaza celebrated it’s official dedication 50 years ago on February 5, 1960.  At the time, Wheaton Plaza was an open air plaza and DC’s largest shopping mall.  It held that distinction until 1981 (when Fair Oaks Mall was completed).  Now, it’s called Westfield Wheaton Mall, but for any of us who have been around the Wheaton area for any time, we will always call it Wheaton Plaza. Credit the source – (the MALL HALL OF FAME).

The above photo shows the west wing of Wheaton Plaza.  In the distance is the 240,000 square foot Montgomery Ward, which was the largest store in the chain at the time.

Then, Montgomery Ward and Woodward & Lothrop were the two anchor stores.

A partial list of WHEATON PLAZA TENANTS in 1960 included:

WOODWARD & LOTHROP (with public auditorium) / MONTGOMERY WARD (with outparcel Auto Center) / S.S. KRESGE / GIANT FOOD / GRAND UNION supermarket (in outparcel annex) / PEOPLES DRUG / Fairlanes Bowling Alley (in outparcel annex) / Hot Shoppes Restaurant (outparcel) / Hot Shoppes Cafeteria / Fannie May Candies / Hahn Shoes / Tiara Gifts / Barracini Candies / Farrell’s Ice Cream / Foxmoor Casuals / Dannaman’s Fabrics / Thom McAn Shoes / Becker’s Luggage / Bank of Silver Spring / Shell service station (outparcel) / Hanover Shoes / E.D. Edwards Shoes / Merry-Go-Round / Joseph R. Harris Company / Embassy Father and Son Shop / Stronsnider’s Hardware / Paris Hats / Bakers Shoes / Variety Records / Charcoal House Restaurant / Brentano’s Books / Calby’s Clothes for Young Boys / Raleigh’s Haberdasher / WHEATON PLAZA OFFICE BUILDING (outparcel annex). Farrell’s Ice Cream was one of my favorites.

The ribbon cutting at Washington’s first mega-mall occurred on the morning of February 5, 1960. Developed by DC’s Theodore N. Lerner and Isadore Gudelsky, the 1,100,000 square foot WHEATON PLAZA was centered on an 80 acre lot, located 11.2 miles northwest of the United States Capitol.

On hand for the grand opening festivities were M.L. Reese, Montgomery County, Maryland manager, Paul M. Hammaker, President of Montgomery Ward and Company, Andrew Parker, President of Woodward and Lothrop, and the Wheaton High School Band.

The largest store in the chain at the time of its opening, Ward’s consisted of 2 retail levels. A third -basement- level served as district offices.

Among the fifteen stores inline at the grand opening were S.S. Kresge, Lerner Shops, Brentano’s Books, Peoples Drug, Hahn Shoes and Giant Food and Grand Union supermarkets. Within a year, the open-air complex housed seventy-five stores and services.

Giant Food, situated at the northwest corner of the structure, predated the mall proper by two years. Grand Union was part of a bi-level, southeastern parking area outparcel annex which included a lower level bowling alley and 7-story office tower.

A single-screen theater, originally known as the Wheaton Plaza Playhouse, opened -on the north side of the mall proper- July 25, 1962. The cinema was refitted as a 3-screen venue, which reopened -as the Wheaton Plaza III- in November 1974.

WHEATON PLAZA was enclosed and climate-controlled in 1981. Five years later, the first expansion of the shopping venue got underway. This included a 2-level (179,000 square foot), Arlington, Virginia-based Hecht’s and adjacent, southeast parking garage.

In 1987, with its new expansion, WHEATON PLAZA assumed the status of fourth-largest shopping mall in the DC suburbs (at the time, the largest was Virginia’s FAIR OAKS). The addition at WHEATON PLAZA had added Hecht’s and a parking garage in the southeast lot.

The PLAZA’s third anchor, Virginia-based Hecht’s. The 179,000 square foot store became a casualty of the May / Federated merger of 2005. It was shuttered in August 2006.

This shows the Hecht’s Wing and anchor store. The mall’s first Food Court had been installed on Level 1 of this addition. At the time, the new wing was the only part of the mall with two retail levels.

The DC METRO extended service to WHEATON PLAZA on September 22, 1990.

The Macy’s Wing was officially dedicated in late 2005. The store took space previously occupied by the mall-accessed cinema, added to the complex in 1962.

The next major change brought Target to the mall.  In the circa-’60 center, this area would have been part of the service tunnel beneath the mall.

This shows the current layout of the mall today.

The latest news is that Costco is talking with Westfield and Montgomery County about redeveloping the old Hecht’s site and opening a store here.

The past 50 years has brought many changes and modernization but Wheaton Plaza has survived and is still servicing shoppers and Wheaton.

Costco is considering opening a new store in Wheaton.  The proposal would be to use the old Hecht’s site to redevelop into the new Costco store.  Working with Westfield, the estimated cost would be $50M and Montgomery County is being asked to contribute $4M towards the construction costs.  The county is currently considering this proposal.

There has been a lot of discussion as to whether this would contribute to the overall plans for the Wheaton Redevelopment efforts or not.  Redevelopment efforts have stalled recently due to budget concerns and the overall economic outlook, but the recent closing of Safeway and plans to redeveloped that sight along with the possibility of Costco coming to Wheaton may just revitalize plans.

The county contribution is not without precedence, the county  contributed $6M to build a parking garage for the Macy’s expansion.

Costco locating in Wheaton would have the benefit of bringing thousands of shoppers to Wheaton who would otherwise shop at their current locations in Gaithersburg and Beltsville, help stabilize the mall and bring an estimated 475 jobs.