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After decades of hoping and two years of waiting, the grand opening of the newly revitalized Springfield Mall—renamed Springfield Town Center—is less than 90 days away, according to Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee).

“This is the most important thing that has happened to Springfield in several decades,” Lee said Thursday. “And it is scheduled to open on time in October. From what I understand, it is currently 90 percent leased and ready to go.”

The first phase of a 10-year redevelopment of the mall and surrounding area, split into four phases, began in November, 2012. The $200 million phase 1 of the plan, according to a 2009 county staff report prepared for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, consists of an interior renovation of the mall, including an improved food court and construction of a new movie theater.

According to the report, the mall’s current owners, Vornado Realty Trust, eventually hope to add as many as 2,700 apartments, 450 hotel rooms and 1 million square feet of office space to the 78-acre site, while expanding the retail component of the area to 2 million square feet of shopping and dining.

In three subsequent phases, Vornado eventually hopes to add as many as 2,700 apartments, 450 hotel rooms and 1 million square feet of office space to the 78-acre site, while expanding the retail component of the area to 2 million square feet of shopping and dining.

In April, Vornado announced that once the mall renovations were complete it would sell the mall property to Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) for $465 million.

According to a PREIT news release, the 1.35 million-square-foot retail property, comprising 642,000 square feet of anchor space and 703,000 square feet of non-anchor space, will hold its grand reopening on Oct. 17.

“I was inside last week and was amazed at the transformation,” said McKay. “There is an enormous amount of glass and natural light and the whole site feels fresh and open.”

The town center vision also includes improved pedestrian and bicycle connections to the Franconia-Springfield Metro and Virginia Railway Express stations, and a circulator bus service that serves the transit station, the mall area and the rest of the Springfield revitalization district.

The developer’s outlying plans also include construction of a central plaza, ground-floor retail in the apartment buildings, a grocery store, a health club, and basketball and tennis courts on top of a parking garage, according to the 2009 report.

“The Springfield community has been waiting a long time for this to start,” McKay said. “The decline of Springfield Mall had nothing at all to do with the local demographics, and everything to do with the mall’s previous owners, who let it get into the shape it was in when Vornado took it over.”

McKay said many of the Town Center’s tenants will be new to the area.

“There will be many new restaurants that will be new to this market,” he said. “And other new tenants that you can’t find anywhere else that will become destinations.”

Nancy-Jo Manney, executive director of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, said that PREIT and Vornado are working closely together to ensure that there will be a nice mix of high-end tenants. “That is the key to making it successful,” she said. “I have seen PREIT leasing agents in Springfield working at making that happen, and that seems like a good sign to me.”

McKay said the new Town Center will also have many new architectural innovations, such as the Regal movie theaters perched atop Dick’s Sporting Goods instead of being free-standing. “That gives you an idea of what floor space is worth,” he said. “The days of having a movie theater with wasted roof space are over.”

According to PREIT, it expects to realize first-year Town Center sales in excess of $525 per square foot.

Also according to PREIT, development rights of the surrounding properties are worth around $80 million.

“PREIT said that they were buying the Town Center in part because of its vested development rights,” said McKay. “I expect that as soon as a week after the Town Center opening, they will be knocking on my door, wanting to proceed with phase 2. This is certainly an exciting time for Springfield and certainly a ‘we’re back’ moment. The Town Center is way more than just a shopping center to Springfield residents, it is a source of civic pride.”

gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com