WHEATON PLAZA
University Boulevard West and Veirs Mill Road
Montgomery County (Wheaton), Maryland

Greater Washington's first mega mall was built on an 80 acre parcel, located 11.2 miles northwest of the United States Capitol, in a section of unincorporated Montgomery County known as Wheaton. WHEATON PLAZA was developed by Washington-based Lerner Enterprises and Isadore Gudelsky.

The super-sized shopping center was designed by Arthur L. Anderson of Washington, DC, with input from master architect Lathrop Douglass. It encompassed a whopping 1,100,000 leasable square feet, and was officially dedicated on February 5, 1960.

On hand for the grand opening festivities were M.L. Reese, Montgomery County (Maryland) Manager, Paul M. Hammaker (President of Montgomery Ward & Company) and Andrew Parker (President of Woodward & Lothrop). Music was provided by the Wheaton High School Band.

Comprised of an upper level of mall stores and service basement, WHEATON PLAZA was anchored by a 3-level (162,000 square foot), Washington-based Woodward & Lothrop ["Low-thrup"] and (235,000 square foot) Montgomery Ward. The largest store in the chain at the time of its opening, the WHEATON Ward's consisted of 2 retail levels. An additional basement floor housed Ward's district offices.

Fifteen stores and services participated in the official inauguration. These included Lerner Shops, Brentano's Books, Peoples Drug, Hahn Shoes, an S.S. Kresge 5 & 10 and Grand Union supermarket. Within a year, the open-air complex would house seventy-five stores and services.

Giant Food, situated at the northwest corner of the structure, predated the mall proper by 2 years. Grand Union was part of a bi-level, southeastern parking area Convenience Center, which included a lower level bowling alley and 7-story office tower.

The Broumas Theatres Wheaton Plaza Playhouse opened, on the north side of the mall, on July 25, 1962. The cinema was renovated and re-opened, as the S & H Theatres Wheaton Plaza 1-2-3, in December 1974. A fourth auditorium was dedicated December 19, 1986.

Primary commercial competitors for WHEATON PLAZA were PRINCE GEORGES PLAZA (1959) {6.7 miles southeast, in Hyattsville}, MONTGOMERY MALL (1968) {4.7 miles southwest, in Montgomery County} and WHITE FLINT MALL (1977) {2.6 miles northwest, also in Montgomery County}.

As a keeping up with the malls measure, WHEATON PLAZA was enclosed and climate-controlled in 1981. 5 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 parking garage.

The Hecht's store was joined to the existing mall via a 2-level South Wing. Its upper level connected with the retail level of the existing mall. The lower level was on the same plane as the service basement and included a small Food Court.

This addition was completed in October 1987. At the same time, a shuttered bowling alley in the southeast parking area Convenience Center was being renovated into a multiplex. The Roth Theatres Wheaton Plaza 7 showed its first features December 25, 1987 and was expanded to 11 screens (by the Loews chain) in 1990. The complex would operate as the P & G Theatres Wheaton Plaza 11 for some years.

WHEATON PLAZA became became rapid-transit-accessible in 1990. The DC Metro Wheaton Station opened, as part of the 3.2 route mile Silver Spring-to-Wheaton Red Line Extension, September 22.

Woodward & Lothrop folded November 10, 1995. Its space at WHEATON PLAZA was taken by J.C. Penney, which opened for business July 20, 1996. Australia-based Westfield Holdings (today's Westfield Group) acquired a 78 percent interest in WHEATON PLAZA in June 1997, with full ownership of the center established in February 1999.

The mall had been saddled with the verbose WESTFIELD SHOPPINGTOWN WHEATON moniker in the previous November. The "Shoppingtown" branding was dropped in June 2005.

A second renovation and expansion of of the complex had been announced in November 1998. This was to include the addition of an unnamed fourth anchor and conversion of the service basement into a second -lower- level of retail. The project was slated to get underway in the spring of 1999, but was delayed for several years.

Construction finally got underway in mid-2003. The north parking area, originally on the same plane as the upper mall level, was excavated down to the service basement. The Giant Food and original cinema, on the northwest corner of the complex, were bulldozed. A 2-level (180,000 square foot) Macy's was built, along with a multilevel parking garage.

Meanwhile, Montgomery Ward had closed, with its building being gutted and renovated into a (240,000 square foot) Target. This location opened July 28, 2002. The mall's original basement was refitted as a new Lower Level of fifty retail stores, new skylights were installed in what was now the Upper Level and the Food Court was relocated from the South Wing to the northeast corner of the Upper Level.

Structural problems with new construction in the north lot delayed completion of the 141 million dollar project. After some modifications, the renewed WESTFIELD WHEATON held an official grand opening November 13, 2005. Included along with the remodeling was a freestanding (58,000 square foot) Giant Food, built in the mall's northwest parking area.

The P & G Theatres movie house morphed into the Wheaton Plaza Cinema 'N' Drafthouse, which was in operation between October 2008 and November 2009. The Montgomery Royal Theatre (encompassing 6 screens) was in business between December 2009 and September 2013.

The most recent modifications at WESTFIELD WHEATON involve the shuttering of Hecht's in August 2006. This store re-opened as IFL International Furniture in March 2007 and operated as a Steve & Barry's University Sportswear during 2008.

After Steve & Barry's shuttering, it was rumored that the store space would be taken by a Wisconsin-based Kohl's, but this never transpired. In July 2010, a deal was announced whereby Costco would open a store at the mall.

This would occupy the upper floor of a new structure, with a Dick's Sporting Goods and Jo-Ann Fabrics being installed in the lower. Dick's Sporting Goods opened its doors October 15, 2012. The (148,000 square foot) Costco was dedicated October 18, with the Jo-Ann store beginning business October 19.

WESTFIELD WHEATON now encompassed approximately 1,652,100 leasable square feet, with a retail roster of one hundred and eighty-one stores and services.

In August 2015, it was reported that the mall's shuttered Montgomery Royal Theatre was to be substantially renovated. The venue re-opened, as the American Multi-Cinema Wheaton Mall 9, on October 13, 2016.

Sources:

http://www.preservenet.cornell.edu
Content from Dan Allen
"Westfield Wheaton" article on Wikipedia
www.cinematreasures.org
www.labelscar.com