The Beltway Plaza is a very strange, mid-sized mall located in the northeastern suburbs of Washington, DC, near (as its name so slyly suggests) the beltway. It has about 1,000,000 square feet of floor space and hosts around 110 stores, and was one of the more interesting malls that I discovered in Mid-Atlantic Adventure™ last week.
The Beltway Plaza appears to be very old, though I’m not sure of the exact vintage. It was originally constructed as an outdoor shopping plaza in 1960, and I would guess it was enclosed sometime in the mid-1970s to early 1980s as a result of the decor and the extraordinarily high ceilings, which were done away with in malls later on because of their high heating/cooling and maintenance costs. The mall’s fabulously retro-modern cloverleaf logo could also be an indication of its age. The Beltway Plaza is particularly odd because the center’s eastern end features a clump of anchor stores: Target, Marshalls, Burlington Coat Factory, and Value City, and the latter two are the only ones with mall access. These anchors are all jumbled up into a big, three-level pile loaded at one end of the mall, despite that the mall itself is only one level. That creates an odd situation where Value City is actually located in a kind of “loft” above the mall, which you can see in the pictures below. I thought that was pretty neat.
The other end of the long mall has a large “Y,” and features a Giant Supermarket with mall access, another true rarity. The Beltway Plaza also featured a Gold’s Gym in the center of the mall, with a large basketball court surrounded by glass walls protruding into the center of the mall corridor itself. Aspiring NBA stars looking for some attention could do much worse.
Unfortunately, despite some of the truly unique attributes of the Beltway Plaza, it seems that it may be on the endangered list. Located in a somewhat prosperous part of Prince Georges County just outside of College Park, the center is in a prime location for top-tier retail, and there is a proposal to blast a roadway straight through the center of the mall from the mall’s main entrance opposite Cunningham Dr. straight through to Breezewood Drive, creating a “Main Street-type shopping environment.” This sounds like a shame, especially considering this discount-oriented yet relatively mid-tier mall seems to be doing quite well as it is.
There does seem to be hope. The above appears to be only one proposal of many to improve the area around the Beltway Plaza Mall, and this document (which is a PDF!) details another, which would add some substantial aesthetic improvements to the area without de-malling, and in fact would expand onto the rear of the Beltway Plaza with a Main Street-style promenade instead.
I wasn’t able to find much about the mall’s history (such as its original anchor tenants, as the above were clearly not original to the center), so if you have any familiarity with the Beltway Plaza’s history or its future, please leave a comment.