Over the weekend, Eater Features Writer Amy McKeever went with Eater DC Associate Editor Adele Chaplin to Springfield Town Center to see the new renovations done to the mall and how it's changed since their youth. Their full report below.
Poised at the intersection of the D.C. region's major highways and across from a Metro stop, Springfield Mall has been a key hub since it opened in the 1970s. But crime and general disrepair undid the relevance of the mall in recent years — until this past Friday with the mall's grand reopening under the new Springfield Town Center moniker.
I graduated in 2002 from the nearby West Springfield High School, and I have countless memories of a youth spent in that shithole of a mall. So does Eater DC associate editor Adele Chapin, who graduated from Robinson Secondary School that same year. We spent Saturday afternoon at Springfield Town Center to assess just how much it had changed, what was new, what we missed, and whether or not Springfield Mall has a chance of becoming relevant again.
Adele: What did you think when you first walked in and saw J.Crew and that dramatic sweeping staircase? Compared to the Springfield Mall of our youth.
Amy: Well, I had many feelings, but if Springfield Mall had been like this 15 years ago, it would have saved me a lot of trips to the mall at Tysons Corner. You are the fashion specialist — what did you think about the quality of stores at the old Springfield Mall?
Adele: I remember going to JCPenney with my mom and going to Claire's/Icing or something equivalent. In fact, I have a clear memory of shopping at a teenybopper store (probably for unicorn earrings or something similar) and water leaking from the ceiling onto us. I'm sure we started shrieking.
Amy: Yeah, it certainly felt like they had given up on taking care of the mall at some point. I went all the time in middle school, but even then it had its problems. There was a pretty strict gang-related rule that you couldn't hang out in groups bigger than four, and we were a group of five or six girls. We would have to split off into smaller groups whenever we saw the mall cops coming around. I later found out that kids from my high school were apparently doing coke in the mall parking lot — and I guess there were a lot of carjackings in the parking lot, too.
Adele: When we walked around the new mall, I had trouble even remembering the way it used to look. It's completely different. It wasn't until we saw the skybridge to the garage near Macy's that it started coming back.
Amy: Yes, the Macy's is all the same, so that was kind of nice to reorient myself when everything else — especially the Regal movie theater right by the Macy's — was so mind-bogglingly different. The movie theater entrance literally used to be just a box office and some doors, and now it's glitzed up with neon lights and another, smaller sweeping staircase.
Adele: My favorite part about our opening weekend trip is that the line for Auntie Anne's pretzels was out of control.
Amy: Hahaha. It really was. The new restaurant options are also kind of wild for Springfield Mall ... for a pretty good price, too. It's weird to think there's a Maggiano's there. I actually want to go to the Chuy's that's opening there, only the second local location for the Austin Tex-Mex chain. I have to say, part of me is a little jealous now after seeing the new Springfield Mall.
Adele: Haha! We should've stayed in Springfield.
Amy: Let's not go crazy, Adele.
Adele: I will go back for Topshop and Uniqlo, though.
Amy: Do you think it's going to be competitive with the other malls nearby now?
Adele: I think so! Those are two big draws. Springfield has the novelty factor working in its favor. Although, the Topshop wasn't as big in size as I had hoped. Meanwhile, this old photo is blowing my mind.
Amy: Yeah, and I think people kind of want a comeback for Springfield Mall.
Adele: Definitely! People seemed proud at the opening.
Amy: It's certainly succeeded in getting people to talk about Springfield again. This weekend was the first time in ages I wanted to go to Springfield for anything other than visiting friends. There is actually something in Springfield that I can't get in D.C.