News & Politics  |  Shopping

Goodbye, Mazza Gallerie and Lakeforest Mall

A look back—and ahead.

After decades as retail destinations, a pair of high-profile malls recently shuttered: Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg and Mazza Gallerie in Friendship Heights. A look at their rise and fall—and what comes next.

Mazza Gallerie

Photograph by MX Granger.

The Beginning: Built in part by Washington developer Olga Mazza, the retail complex opened in 1977 and immediately became a local landmark, with its imposing white-box design. Tenants were hard to attract at first, though Neiman Marcus was a big get. Its four-story outpost took up nearly half the building.

The Heyday: Though small compared with suburban behemoths like White Flint, Mazza Gallerie was a destination for generations of upper Northwest residents. Among the reasons to visit: fancy sweets at Krön Chocolatier, albums at the Disc Shop, and sundaes at Swensen’s. Later attractions included Filene’s Basement and an upscale movie theater.

The Decline: After going through various revamps and freshening attempts, Mazza ultimately couldn’t survive changing times. The AMC theater and McDonald’s shuttered during the pandemic, and TJ Maxx, the last remaining retailer, closed in December, marking the mall’s end.

The Future: Developer Tishman Speyer bought Mazza in 2021, and plans are moving forward for a seven-story, 325-unit apartment and retail complex. Can an influx of new residents revive that flagging retail corridor?

Lakeforest Mall

Wikimedia Commons photo by G. Edward Johnson.

The Beginning: When it opened a year after Mazza Gallerie, it was the biggest mall in Montgomery County, with anchor stores such as Woodward & Lothrop and Hecht’s. The Washington Post noted that, at nearly ten miles outside the Beltway, Lakeforest was “leading the leapfrog game as the suburbs sprawl outward.”

The Heyday: Visitors marveled at its Olympic-size indoor skating rink while flocking to its 125-plus stores. Before the food court arrived, patrons could choose from a selection of sit-down spots, such as Chi-Chi’s and Spinnaker’s.

The Decline: Impacted by the same retail forces that have devastated malls across the country, it has been losing stores and customers for some time. In January, Macy’s—the last remaining anchor—said it would pull the plug in March, and a few days later, Lakeforest’s owners announced that the rest of the mall would close with it.

The Future: The expansive complex has a decidedly dated vibe, so it’s no surprise it’ll be torn down. A developer intends to replace it with a mix of commercial and residential space, pending approval of the plans. And about a third of the current footprint will be used for park space. No, not parking: actual greenery.

This article appears in the March 2023 issue of Washingtonian.

Amy Moeller
Fashion & Weddings Editor

Amy leads Washingtonian Weddings and writes Style Setters for Washingtonian. Prior to joining Washingtonian in March 2016, she was the editor of Capitol File magazine in DC and before that, editor of What’s Up? Weddings in Annapolis.