The Moorestown Mall has made successive attempts to refresh or reinvent itself since it opened in 1963.
The results have been mixed. And Moorestown is now undergoing a new round of development, having lost three of its four department stores since 2017, while the mall’s owner, PREIT, has sold off many of its other mall properties over the last 10 years.
“The mall isn’t dying,” PREIT CEO Joseph F. Coradino said Monday at a public meeting to update local residents. “In fact, it’s in the midst of a rebirth.”
Coradino, whose company also owns the Cherry Hill Mall, spoke inside the 84-acre Moorestown Mall property on Route 38 during the hourlong event Monday. So did representatives of other companies with a stake in the mall’s future.
Moorestown Mayor Nicole Gillespie said she requested the session to update residents about the latest transformation, which she described as “a really fabulous vision of what’s to come here.”
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Work is underway to repurpose the Sears department store, closed since 2020, into a three-floor outpatient facility of the Cooper University Health Care system. Site preparation begins this week for Pearl, a four-story, 375-unit apartment complex that Bel Canto, a Plymouth Meeting developer, is constructing near Boscov’s.
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Separately, plans call for opening a liquor store in the former Sears auto center building behind the mall, said Joseph Aristone, PREIT’s executive vice president of leasing.
He also said the company recently signed a long-term lease with Boscov’s and is exploring whether to create what he described as a “family entertainment center” in the former Lord & Taylor, which shut down in 2019 and since late 2021 has housed a Turn 7 discount store. A long-term agreement with Turn 7 also is an option, Aristone said.
Coradino said the mall is currently 95% leased.
“This is going to be awesome,” said Charlenia Webb, who was among a dozen people in the audience who asked questions.
But Webb, who has opened an arcade called the Family Virtual Fun Zone in the mall, said she worried about competition from a family entertainment center. She also said businesses owned by people of color and women should have opportunities to locate in the mall as the transformation continues.
Coradino said PREIT has leased space to several businesses owned by people from underrepresented groups in Moorestown and has been “very proactive about reaching out to minority-owned businesses.”
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Others in the audience asked whether the Cooper facility would include an emergency room, and one asked whether Pearl residents would include a large number of families with young children, which could prove challenging for the township school district to accommodate.
The Cooper facility will not have an ER or beds for overnight stays at its mall location, said Christine Winn, Cooper’s senior vice president for ambulatory operations. She described the facility as a campus that would open into the retail portion of the mall and complement the residential and other elements of the redevelopment.
Winn also said the first floor of the Cooper facility could open next September, with the second floor opening by the end of 2023.
Dan Herman, chief development officer of Bel Canto, said he could not estimate how many children would live in the Pearl but that the majority of the apartments would be one-bedrooms or studios, with some two-bedroom units. Twenty percent, or 75, of the units would be affordable under terms of an agreement the township has signed with the Fair Share Housing Center; the complex also would include a parking garage and a pool and should be completed by 2025.
“Obviously, the mall was a concern for a long time,” Gillespie said in an interview. “We have a lot of hope it will turn into something that feels very different.”
The mayor also said that although the township is concerned about PREIT’s future — the company has sold 17 of its malls since 2012 — Cooper and Bel Canto have both purchased their development properties.
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“We certainly need more apartment homes, and there’s no reason to think Bel Canto and Cooper won’t be successful,” Gillespie said.
The vision for the property is now being shaped not only by PREIT but also by Cooper, Bel Canto and other potential partners, the mayor said.
“It’s not only dependent on what new retail tenants are brought in,” Gillespie said.
Philadelphia-based PREIT also owns the Cumberland Mall in Vineland and properties in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and other states.