The Mall at Prince Georges is growing in sales, in scale, and in community support as it undergoes its biggest renovation since 2004.
BY HyCDC STAFF — As a keystone player of the larger Prince George’s Plaza Transit District, HyCDC met with the Mall at Prince Georges' General Manager, Mr. Henry L. Watford, to discuss how the Mall has grown over the last 58 years and explore how its latest renovations complement neighboring developments in the Transit District.
When the Mall opened in 1959, shoppers enjoyed a single open-air shopping center with a neighboring bank and gas station. Now, 58 years later, shoppers know the Mall as a central, enclosed retail hub and restaurant park. A hub that has sparked the development of the wider Transit District, which itself features multiple shopping centers, office buildings, townhomes, and apartments. When Mr. Wattford (“please, call me Henry!”) arrived in 1990, he can fondly remember when the Mall was one of the biggest retail centers in the County. As he puts it, Prince George’s County was underserved. Now, 27 years later, Henry notes that the Mall continues to report a 98% tenancy, even with an ever-growing consumer base with high-discretion incomes, and that “sales have actually increased since we’ve been under construction. Generally, that doesn’t happen.” Henry attributes this to strong customer loyalty and a positive response to an eclectic mix of national, regional and local tenants.
“This is ‘My Mall’”
Henry notes that the Mall has one factor to thank for its success: an ongoing conversation with Mall shoppers. As he puts it, “we don’t manage the Mall from the office, we’re up on the floor. Every weekday morning at 8:30am I’ll be at the food court having coffee for an hour and a half, listening to our customers.”
To no surprise, Henry’s a good conversationalist too: “We’re looking to provide amenities consumers are demanding and wanting and that retailers are deserving. My approach to leasing, marketing, operations? I listen to see if there’s an opportunity for me to give them what they ask for. We’re here to serve! What do the people want? We could go over financial reports and hire consumer-report companies, but if you don’t talk with your shoppers, you don’t know how your morning walkers…your after-school kids…your store owners are doing. They have my number! If they have an issue, they call me and say ‘Henry—here’s what’s happening.’”
That level of trust and emphasis on relationship-building is rare, but “it’s all part of building a stronger family…The difference is the passion: I can sit down with statistics but you’ll see I have a belief in the market. Not a sales pitch. I live here. I’ve got two houses: the Mall and where my family rests their heads.”
A Delicate Balance in a Growing Market
Ownership and belonging are both an extension of what Henry’s on-the-ground team believes in, as well as PREIT, the Mall’s parent company. When the Mall changed its name in 2004 to “The Mall at Prince Georges” (or “MPG” for short), it did so to better position itself in the Transit District from its neighboring shopping centers. The Mall is home to corporate-owned, franchises, and small business-owners, each “with a story to tell. A pulse.”
The challenge, Henry notes, is growing the market while retaining the Mall’s long-term shoppers. “We want to add national tenants while retaining the unique, local and regional tenants who make us what we are. You can’t go to X mall to find this tenant, you can only come to MPG. Ebony Barbers, for instance, has been known to attract celebrities, attorneys, you name it. It’s our responsibility to highlight local and regional retail players. After all, sales are based on passion. Look at our department stores, they offer variety: JCPenney has introduced Sephora while Macy’s is opening its Backstage brand. If an industry is doing well, that fuels the decision to grow.
We’ve been 98% leased for many years. This comes from talking to the community: our shoppers, our residents, even our local media editors—each helps us develop and build upon our relationships.”
The Mall’s website highlights new retailers and moved locations that began Summer 2017 and are ongoing, including: Footaction with Flight 23 and Nike Kicks Lounge, Bath & Body Works/White Barn, DTLR, and Macy's Backstage. Old Navy, Victoria's Secret/PINK, Chelsea's Beauty Supply, Mezeh Mediterranean Grill, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Five Guys Burgers & Fries. Next Spring, DSW and Ulta will open. All the while, retailers such as Allure Jewelers, Dazzle, DTLR, Lane Bryant, and Rainbow have moved to new locations; and Charley’s Philly Steaks, Strike, and Planet Fitness are now open.
An additional detached pad site on the property will also be developed for a national-chain, family-style, sit-down restaurant in line with the Mall’s existing detached sit-down family-style restaurants, Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse.
- Average Household Income: $87K
- Average Household Income With 10 Mile Radius: $101K
- Households Earning Greater Than 100K: 32%
- Total Trade Area Population: 1.5M
- Ongoing Residential Development Occurring Directly Around The Property, Attracting Young, Upscale Residents: $1B
- Daily Ridership On Metro Green Line Which Stops Across The Street: 100K
- Unmet Retail Demand in Trade Area: $7b
- Center Size: 914K sq ft
- Inline Gross Leasable Area: 437K sq ft
- Occupancy: 98%
(Read more on PREIT.com)
What’s New & Now
“Renovations should finish Summer 2018. Our interior finishes will be bright, modern, and welcoming with stone and natural wood. Outdoors, we’re upgrading our exterior façade with warm, sleek stone and with improved lighting and landscaping to improve curb appeal.” Henry’s quick to point out: “we want to put walkable egress not where we think people are traveling but where the people are already walking, to and from the surrounding community.”
Indeed, foot traffic to the Mall has increased steadily since the Mall’s 2004 addition introduced a lobby to the north side of the Mall (beside Target). With the ongoing renovations, the Mall is eager to improve both its walkability as well as its shopping experience. “We’re introducing new amenities to meet new market demand, such as comfortable seating areas, a renovated food court, device charging kiosks, point-of-sale rewards, art exhibitions, and summer performances," to name some examples.
"We believe in this market. This is a wonderful piece of real estate, but you must invest in it.” ∎
Scroll down to learn more about development in Hyattsville and more links and about the Mall.
- History Profile, Mall Hall of Fame Blog.
- Photo Gallery, May 29 1959, Library of Congress
- “When Prince George’s Plaza Was Topless” Maps, Hyattsville Patch
- Prince George's Plaza Transit District Development Plan, Page 24:
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