Westfield is one of my least favorite of the major mall developers because of their tendency to make every mall look the same. However, a recent renovation at the Wheaton Plaza (or “Westfield Shoppingtown Wheaton,” whatever) in Wheaton, Maryland merits a quick ‘n dirty post.
As this is the first Westfield mall that we’ve written about, it merits a rant: Seriously, what gives with Westfield’s annoying naming scheme? Don’t they realize that labeling every one of their malls as “Westfield Shoppingtown _____” is a disastrous attempt at over-branding, an effort that strips malls of one of their few marks of personality and likely saps the lone strands of personal or community “connection” that anyone might have a remote chance of feeling towards their local mall? It’s a waste of the only shred of potential goodwill that a large shopping mall could ever hope to engender as part of their communities. People routinely complain that every town in America looks the same; that we all have Wal-Mart and Home Depot and Applebee’s. Why not at least let each individual enclosed mall exist as its own place, with its own name and logo? Ever notice how the band Chicago put out, like, 30 records, and numbered (rather than named) every single one of them and nowadays, no one ever starts raving that “Chicago X was soo awesome, man, so much more awesome than Chicago VIII!”? I don’t work for Westfield, but if I did I would abandon their misguided branding practices completely.
I didn’t expect much from this mall, and honestly Wheaton Plaza is not exactly a unique snowflake. Westfield Shoppingtown Wheaton is organized in a pretty conservative “T” pattern, with JCPenney and Target at each end, Macy’s about 1/4 up from one end on a small side hallway, and a dead Hecht’s store at the end of the “T” wing. I have no exterior shots due to the way the entire front of the mall is surrounded up close by a large parking deck (which is a common problem in the DC area, I’ve found), but I got a few cool pictures of the interior, which has a few snazzy upgrades, best displayed in the above photo of the Macy’s store. This new Macy’s store actually opened as part of the mall’s recent renovation that was completed in 2005. It sounds like the Wheaton Plaza, which opened in 1959 as an open-air shopping center, had long struggled against nearby behemoths like Westfield Shoppingtown Montgomery and White Flint, and this recent renovation brought the 1.3 million square foot mall situated just outside of the DC beltway up to par as a successful mid-tier mall, adding tenants like Express, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Hollister. It’s not as upscale as its sister malls, but it doesn’t need to be: Montgomery is the higher-end yet mass-market mall, White Flint corners the higher end of the market, and the Downtown Silver Spring complex serves the entertainment-minded consumers.
Wheaton did have one large vacancy, created recently when Hecht’s vacated their space at the rear of the mall. Unfortunately a little foresight would’ve saved Macy’s from constructing a brand new store only to then close the mall’s Hecht’s just months later, but this is the way of corporate mergers I suppose. I did manage to scrounge the following picture (NOT taken by me) online, for those who’d like to see every last May-signed store they possibly can before it’s too late:
If you’ve got the goods on the Wheaton Plaza’s history, comment away. I came up empty-handed this time.