Beltway Plaza: The Future of Malls?

The Washington Post: “At Beltway Plaza, Spanish rings out from every aisle and the food court is populated by not Taco Bells, but various immigrant cuisines … Mostly, Beltway Plaza has found a niche as a large — and faintly 1980s — urban souk, hawking the necessities, and the oddities, of immigrant life … In a retail landscape that is increasingly bleak, could this be this the future of malls? … It’s the quintessential American mall, once flush with people, now scraping along as national retailers shudder.”

“Local real estate magnate Sidney J. Brown opened Beltway Plaza as an open-air discount mall in 1963 in Greenbelt, one of only three garden-filled towns in America developed for low-income families in the late 1930s under the New Deal … Greenbelt, envisioned as city filled with smartly manicured greenscape, eventually came to look more like a thicket of concrete and strip malls. But the mall, with its awfully affordable S. Klein Department store, a two-screen movie theater and a pizza parlor, was a hit.”

“At Jo-Ann Fabric, the sewing aisle, a beacon of immigrant industriousness, was humming … We trek to Import Cottage, where you can purchase brazen replica Louis Vuitton suitcases, large laundry bags emblazoned with ‘Charm of Africa’ and untarnished Indian costume jewelry … A stroll across the mall’s dated white-tiled corridors takes you past a cookie place that is not Mrs. Fields and a restaurant that is not Panda Express but Jodeem African Cuisine, offering the Ni­ger­ian specialties ogbono soup and fufu. There’s an El Taco Rico, about as large as a broom closet and just as dark.”


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