WRS, Inc. officially announced that Lakeforest Mall will be closing at the end of March, after almost 45 years in Gaithersburg. The closing of the mall aligns with the recently announced closing of Macy’s, the last of the remaining anchor stores at the mall. The announcement was made at a City of Gaithersburg Mayor and City Council meeting on Tuesday night. WRS plans to demolish “as soon as they can.” Financing requires the mall to remain as an option in case “things go really sideways”, which could cause WRS to have to look at re-tenanting the mall. It was made clear that WRS does not intend to do this, but needs to keep it as an option. Previously, WRS mentioned 2024 as a target date for demolition to occur and new construction to begin.
Lakeforest Mall first opened on September 12, 1978. At that time, the mall’s anchor stores were JCPenney, Sears, Woodward & Lothrop, and Hecht’s. The mall was one of the first in the United States to feature an indoor ice skating rink on the lower level, in the “H section”, along with being the biggest indoor shopping mall in the county at the time of grand opening. The ice skating rink was replaced by a NTI Theaters movie theater in 1984, later renamed Cineplex Odeon Lakeforest 5, then by a food court, which now occupies the space. The mall was built on top of Lake Walker, a park on the property prior. The mall opened with approximately 30-50 stores, with some of the first stores being relocated from the then nearby indoor Village Mall (now an outdoor strip mall called Montgomery Village Center since 1991) and absorbed onto the property.
A recommendation by the City of Gaithersburg’s Planning Commission followed by a decision by the Mayor and City Council is expected to happen this spring. Preliminary plans recently presented by WRS can be seen here.
Featured photo courtesy of GaithersburgHistory.com