In its design and feel, Greenbelt’s Beltway Plaza Mall is a throwback to the heyday of American malls in the 1980s. But a closer look shows a mall with a unique business model.
As noted in this 2016 story in the Washington Post, the mall has found new life as home to small businesses run by Latino and African immigrants. With few of the typical anchors — except a Target — the mall instead features stores like the bluntly titled Ties, Shirts and More, which focus on providing a good value and old-fashioned service.
Now the mall’s owners, Bethesda-based Quantum Companies, are looking to change things up. Paperwork filed with the Prince George’s County Planning Department, first obtained by Route 1 Reporter, show plans to add townhomes, apartments and more shops, turning it into more of a modern mixed-use development.
That would improve walkability in an area still defined largely by the pedestrian-unfriendly Greenbelt Road and not far from new townhomes by the Greenbelt Metro station.
“The answer to existing businesses is essentially to move or pay astronomical new rents. In a few cases of strip mall redevelopment, existing retail tenants are grandfathered into new developments or promised below-market rates,” notes author Addison Del Mastro. “Mostly, they move or close.”
The plans are not approved yet, which means there is still an opportunity for local leaders to act. They could, for example, ask the mall’s owners to make certain commitments to existing tenants for a period of time during the redevelopment.
The Beltway Plaza could use a fresh look, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep some of what makes it unique and interesting.