Around Town

Lego Discovery Center opens in Springfield, ushering in new era for town center

The highly anticipated Lego Discovery Center has launched in Springfield, though it’ll be a few more days before the brick-building mecca officially welcomes the general public.

With a ribbon cut by scissors made out of Lego bricks and a burst of confetti, the 32,000-square-foot attraction opened its doors at Springfield Town Center (6563 Springfield Mall, Suite 12004) around 11 a.m. yesterday to dozens of kids, parents and other adults who snagged advance tickets.

A prebooked ticket is required for admission until the official opening on Monday, Aug. 14.

Under construction since December, the discovery center features a variety of play and building areas, a Mini World with models constructed from more than 1.5 million bricks, a 4D theater, a climbing gym, an indoor train ride and a cafe. There’s also a store with exclusive sets and a customize-a-figure station, among other offerings, that can be accessed separately.

“It’s been such a long time coming,” said Andrew Litterst, the D.C. area’s Master Model Builder. “I was here at the Springfield Town Center back in February, competing for my job title. Six months later, here we are. We’re very excited to finally be at this point. It’s an amazing attraction, and I can’t wait to get inside and work with people.”

A former environmental sciences teacher at Marshall High School, Litterst was anointed master builder for Lego’s first discovery center in the D.C. area after winning a Brick Factor competition where he raced to build models inspired by different themes, like the Super Bowl or space, WAMU reported at the time.

As master builder, he serves as a spokesperson for the center, and he’s responsible for building and maintaining its many Lego models. His creations range in scale from dragons with movable wings to replicas of D.C. landmarks, such as the Capitol and a Nationals Park with an actual view of the National Mall.

Given his background as an educator, perhaps it’s not surprising that Litterst is especially looking forward to delivering the center’s workshops and building challenges, which invite kids to create models in a set amount of time.

“Lego is the embodiment of the scientific method,” Litterst said. “Whatever you’re trying to build, that’s your problem. That’s the question you’re trying to answer, and how you go about building that, that’s kind of the rest of that discovery process. So, I’m going to try building something this way. Oh, that doesn’t look quite right. Let’s tear it down and try a different way, and so, it’s a learning process through trial and error and it’s just a great group activity as well.”

Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk says the combination of entertainment and education makes the Lego Discovery Center a valuable addition to Springfield, particularly at a town center seeking to become a destination for more than just shopping.

Despite a major renovation and rebranding from its original name of Springfield Mall, Springfield Town Center remains dominated by retail and has seen little progress over the past decade toward fulfilling Fairfax County’s vision of accessible, mixed-use development.

An economic market study released last year found that the town center drove an uptick in retail vacancies in Springfield during the pandemic, but the 2-million-square-foot area is “well positioned” to support growth in other sectors, including 800 to 1,200 multifamily residential units and 100,000 to 200,000 square feet of office.

Retail will still be a key component of the town center, whose incoming tenants include the department clothing stores Burlington and Daily Thread. But the county and property owner PREIT hope to balance it out with housing and other types of commercial development.

In addition to Lego, the town center is in line to get a five-story hotel and a 460-unit residential building called the Hanover — the first multifamily housing approved in Springfield since 2001.

“We’re now exercising the original vision for the Springfield Town Center,” Lusk said. “We’re building those amenities that are going to help create the community of the future, so we’re excited about that.”

At yesterday’s grand opening, though, the Lego Discovery Center delivered some more immediate rewards to friends Adam Smith and Jayson Brown, who eagerly presented a pair of “perfect” cars that he had constructed.

Both boys declared the facility “good” after exploring a pyramid, volcano and Jungle Jump slide in the open “Build Adventures” zone.

Adam’s mom, Jamie Davis Smith, says it took about 40 minutes to travel from their home, but the family is happy to have a Lego Discovery Center closer than the one they previously visited in Philadelphia, where her parents live.

“He loves Legos, and they have a lot of things here you can’t do at home, like the tracks he can race cars down and all the different zones,” Davis Smith said. “So, it adds a different layer to building with LEGOS and playing with them. I think we’ll come back a lot probably.”