The big red button was ceremonial, so when Alexandria, Virginia, Mayor Justin Wilson pressed it the first time after a five-second countdown and nothing happened, everyone was able to laugh.
They could see the wrecking ball hovering over the sign that heralded what was once the Landmark Mall, so they knew it was just a matter of time.
Besides, as Wilson had joked a few minutes before, if you provided residents with enough sledgehammers, they were ready to take it down on their own.
It never came to that. With a giant swing of the crane, the ball went smashing right between the D and the M to the cheers of dozens of people who were gathered to see the end of Landmark Mall and the first step toward what will be known as West End Alexandria.
“All roads led to Landmark Mall for a long time,” said Wilson. “This was an important site throughout our city’s history.”
In a few years, it will be again.
Inova Alexandria Hospital will anchor the huge redevelopment at the site. The billion-dollar facility will replace the aging hospital a couple of miles to the north.
“This is an opportunity to get a modern medical facility for the city,” said Wilson, adding that the pandemic made crystal-clear how important that can be.
But West End will bring much more, the mayor said.
Thousands of new homes will be built in the coming years, Wilson said.
“There will be retail in here. A lot of open space, park properties — we’re going to use this opportunity to build a new fire station.” The city will build some affordable housing, as it did on the east end of the city too.
“It helps us achieve some community needs for the community and then we also have the possibility for senior living and a bunch of other needs on the site,” Wilson said. “We are trying to accommodate as many city goals and objectives on one site as we can. It’s a very big site and it embodies a lot of our hopes for the future.”
The new Inova Hospital is slated to open in 2028.
Vice Mayor Amy Jackson grew up going to the Landmark Mall as a kid, and had lots of memories of shopping, dining, and socializing there. But while the nostalgic memories are fun to think about, she and everyone else who showed up had more fun thinking about the future.
“Change is always good, but sometimes you reflect,” said Jackson. “You reflect on what you’ve done here. But I’m ready to move on and progress and can’t wait for what the next chapter holds.”