Iverson Mall in Hillcrest Heights, MD: More Than Just a Shopping Destination

The Early Days: A Whirl of Activity and Innovation

A local icon came to life in the spring of 1967, bringing a burst of energy to Hillcrest Heights, Maryland. Iverson Mall (currently The Shops at Iverson), situated at the intersection of Branch Avenue and Iverson Street, marked a significant milestone in the region’s history.

The mall emerged as the first of its kind in the Washington D.C. area to offer a fully enclosed, climate-controlled shopping experience. The innovation placed the local community on the map and breathed a new air of convenience into their lives​​.

The grand opening was memorable, with former Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes cutting the ceremonial ribbon. Two retail giants, Montgomery Ward, and Woodward & Lothrop, served as the mall’s anchors, setting the stage for a bustling hub of commerce that housed 60 stores.

The mall, a $10 million investment, was an architectural marvel, straddling Iverson Street and flaunting a four-story office building at its front​​.

However, the landscape began to shift with the opening of the nearby Landover Mall in 1972. Competition grew, and Iverson Mall faced its first major challenge, leading to a period of decline that saw all fountains removed during a remodeling effort in 1985.

The departure of Montgomery Ward and Woodward & Lothrop in the mid-1990s also hit hard. Yet, Iverson Mall remained resilient, replacing the original anchor stores with discount department stores and holding onto its place in the community’s heart​​.

A New Era: Revitalizing a Community Icon

The winds of change swept across Iverson Mall in 2008. A fresh slogan and advertising campaign were unveiled: “You Can Find it All – at Iverson Mall.” This campaign marked a renewed commitment to serve the community and adapt to evolving needs and expectations​​.

Iverson Mall
Iverson Mall” by Wampi (czwampi) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Then, in 2016, the mall embarked on a new chapter of its journey. The new owners set their sights on a more prosperous future, proposing a $30 million refurbishment.

The planned makeover, partially financed by a loan from the county’s Economic Development Incentive Fund, aspired to transform the mall into a bustling “main street,” complete with exterior-oriented architecture and alfresco access to several eateries.

The upgrade plan didn’t stop there. It further pledged to adorn the mall with a contemporary wood and glass facade, install energy-saving modifications, introduce new lighting, deploy a state-of-the-art security system, and construct modern restroom facilities. In addition to these enhancements, the blueprint also included an expansive 75,000 square feet of office space.

Iverson Mall
Iverson mall” by Payton Chung is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Trials of the Present: Overcoming Obstacles

Iverson Mall has faced its share of hurdles in recent years. In June 2022, a shooting incident near the mall entrance injured three individuals, casting a shadow over the sense of security that had been a cornerstone of the shopping center​​.

Despite the significant renovation, the mall has faced challenges. The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 was particularly hard on in-person retail, causing efforts to revitalize the mall to stall.

Financial difficulties have also been a pressing concern. The owner defaulted on a $21.2 million mortgage, culminating in a foreclosure auction in the summer of 2022​​.

These challenges have marked a significant turning point in the mall’s history, serving as a stark reminder of the pressures faced by retail centers in the modern world.

Looking Ahead: A Vision for Renewal

The challenges that Iverson Mall has faced are not unique. Across the country, traditional shopping malls have grappled with the rise of e-commerce and changing consumer behaviors. The Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated these trends, making in-person retail even more challenging.

Despite these difficulties, Iverson Mall has a valuable asset that online retailers cannot match: a physical presence in the heart of a community. It occupies a space that has been integral to the community’s fabric for decades. The mall has the potential to adapt and transform, serving new purposes while preserving its role as a community hub.

The possibilities for transformation are varied. The mall could incorporate residential units, offering a live-work-play environment that is increasingly popular among urban dwellers. It could make room for educational or medical facilities, providing essential services within easy reach of residents. It could also become a center for local businesses and startups, offering office and retail space that fosters local economic growth.

Iverson Mall
Iverson Mall” by Payton Chung is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The county is committed to supporting the mall’s transformation. The Prince George’s County Economic Development Corp. has been offering a range of incentives to support the mall’s revitalization. They understand the importance of the mall to the community and are dedicated to maintaining it as a community asset​​.

Iverson Mall’s journey mirrors the larger story of retail in America, a story of change and adaptation. As it faces its next chapter, the mall stands as a symbol of the challenges and opportunities ahead. It serves as a reminder that while change is inevitable, it also brings the possibility of renewal and growth.

The community and county officials are hopeful. They see not an end but a new beginning. They envision a renewed Iverson Mall that honors its past while embracing the future. In this vision, the mall continues to be a place where memories are made, a place that serves and strengthens its community.

Iverson Mall
Iverson Mall” by Payton Chung is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the vision for Iverson Mall: not just a mall but a vibrant, multifaceted community asset. It’s a vision that requires creativity, commitment, and collaboration. It’s a vision worth fighting for. As the auction date approaches, all eyes are on Iverson Mall, anticipating the next step in its remarkable journey.

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