PREIT Purchases Former Strawbridge’s Flagship Store

The Gallery at Market East in Philadelphia, with the older Strawbridge's store at right

One of the more prominent retail sites vacated due to the Federated/May merger has been snatched up by PREIT (The Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust). According to GlobeSt.com, the developer has signed a purchase agreement for floors one through six of the former Strawbridge’s anchor store at Eighth and Market Streets in center city Philadelphia.

Strawbridge's LogoThe historic Strawbridge’s store, which opened in 1931, is attached to the aging, 1,100,000 square foot Gallery at Market East shopping mall. The center–which, somewhat surprisingly, I haven’t been able to visit due to some bouts of bad luck–has reportedly under-performed for some time and failed to serve as the center of the city’s downtown retail district, which is what it was designed to be. In addition to the departed Strawbridge’s, JCPenney and Gimbel’s long ago vacated and now the mall counts Kmart, Pay/Half, and Burlington Coat Factory amongst it’s relatively indistinguished roster of tenants. The top floor of the four-level mall is mostly vacant.

One design feature that stands out about the Gallery at Market East is that much of the mall is sliced in half by the Kmart store, so on certain levels it’s necessary to walk through the Kmart itself to proceed straight through the length of the mall. The mall also has one level below street level, continuing the full length of the mall, while the third level of the mall also continues straight through the mall, leaving the street level sandwiched inbetween. The street level is severed at each cross street, so to access its stores its necessary to come from above or below. Essentially, depending on the floor of the mall, the structure flies over, tunnels under, or dead-ends completely at the crossing blocks. If I’ve confused you, check out PREIT’s detailed leasing plan (which is a PDF). I haven’t seen the Gallery, but am dying to.

Hopefully I’ll make it down in time to see the Gallery, because it seems that PREIT’s motivation for buying the Strawbridge’s store is to prepare for a much needed reset at the entire Gallery at Market East Shopping Mall. Joseph Coradino, president of PREIT Services, tells GlobeSt.com that the Gallery at Market East is “Defensive. It defends itself by turning its back on the street. We want to open it to the street, with cafes and retail that will capture the customers in that area.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to become outdoor (the multi-level nature of the mall probably means that wouldn’t make much sense at all) but it does seem to indicate a drastic and overdue repositioning of the mall is in place. If done correctly, it could give Philadelphia the kind of downtown retail destination that helped kick start urban revitalization efforts in Boston or Providence. Work is expected to begin in either 2007 or 2008.

9 Responses to “PREIT Purchases Former Strawbridge’s Flagship Store”

  1. Going to the GaME is definitely an experience, and I hope that PREIT can revitalize the place. Even though I’ve been there only once, I was saddened to hear of Macy’s closing Strawbridge’s. What a grand old store she was — all 7 floors of her! Shopping there was a step back in time.

    Love the site…

    Matt

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  2. The best thing that could happen to the Gallery is to demolish it. The mall’s design is so outlandishly 1970s, that it’s not attractive or practical for today’s retailers. All the levels — even the lower level — have split-level features. So you can walk up a few flights of steps to enter one store but you then must walk down a few more for the store next door. Crime is and has been a problem for some time. This mall is frequented almost exclusivley by gangsta-rap loving truants looking for trouble. The few stores left open are music shops, discount shoe stores and dollar stores. In short, the Gallery was a great idea when it was proposed in the 1970s but it was executed poorly. It should be leveled and re-developed. How about a Super Target instead?

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  3. There was a mall there? I parked on the parking lot adjoining Strawbridge’s! I saw “Strawbridge and Clothier”. It made me sad, really. Shouting “It’s all Macy’s fault!” would make me an idiot, so I didn’t.

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  4. 3 words KING OF PRUSSIA. That is were the high profile stores go not phili. Plus you have roosevelt mall & franklin mills-but mills is also faltering.

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  5. The mall may have been the first time I was so close to a mall I didn’t know it. At least since I started looking for them (as I had passed Hammond Square for years and did not see it, possibly because it was 6 in the morning)

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  6. Where is the great juice bar “ENERJUICER”?
    Did they move somewhere?
    I need my energy back. There is other fresh fruit concept like that anywhere.

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  7. My wife and I recently visited the Art Museum and arrived via suburban Septa train at Market East station. We decided to walk through the Gallery, and there certainly has been quite a transformation to “dollar” value retail. I was attending school in Phila. when the Gallery opened, and it was quite exciting at the time (long before the arrival of the convention center transformed the area in general). Many of the independent cart vendors in the Gallery are now scented oil/incence stands; put your picture on a t-shirt; and cell phone add-ons that blink colorful led lights. A few hangers-on are still there: Radio Shack; The Camera Shoppe; and other mall standards. The biggest shock came when coming out of the Gallery onto Market Street. We were met by someone shouting into a microphone with the amplifier set to 10; and several others pounding on boxes and plastic buckets with sticks. This noise echoed back and forth between both sides of Market Street, and could be heard for several blocks as we walked. Any good points noticed? Well, if I think of any I’ll come back and post them. Perhaps I’ll take a few photos and send them to update your web site. I very much enjoy the history of retail stores . . . particularly in urban and “downtown” settings. I’ve been enjoying your site for several nights now.

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  8. I grew up in Philadelphia and over the course of the ’90s and early 2000’s, the Gallery changed drastically.

    Eventhough Gimbel’s left in the ’80s (my mother used to talk about this a lot), JC Penney and Strawbridge &Clothier stayed at the mall for a while. I remember going to the mall in the ’90s for shopping for clothes and CDs and the convenient part was that the subway and commuter trains all stopped at the mall. So, if you lived in Philly’s neighborhoods like I did, you could take the train from your street and it would take you directly to the mall.

    But, in the early 2000’s, Strawbridge&Clothier just became Strawbridge’s and K-Mart also became part of the mall. I can’t recall the year, but around 2000 or 2001, the mall became, as we locals call it, really “ghetto” and dirty. I used to take the subway home from high school and would stop at the mall to go to the smaller food court (the mall had a larger one farther inside and a smaller one near the train station which had an Adam’s Cafe, Village Pizza, a Chinese place, and I believe either a Popeye’s or some other Chicken place). Anyway, I would wander around the mall out of boredom and it was mostly taken over by bored high school students like myself who were just simply urban mallrats. The store selection had changed I recall there was a KB Toys in the mall and The Wall music store, and several clothing stores in the ’90s (I recall buying a pair of sneakers there in 1997). By 2000, KB and most of the clothes stores were gone and The Wall was replaced by a disorganized FYE.

    I don’t live in the city anymore, but I went by there in 2006 or 2007 and the mall definitely had gone downhill from what I remember as a high school student. Basically, the only thing the Gallery is good for now is air conditioning and as a subway stop.

    Also, the Philadelphia area has another mall, the Cheltenham Mall, which is on the city line in the northwest section of the city. Ironically, in the ’90s, it was revered to as the “ghetto” mall because of it’s proximity to the northwest part of the city and housing projects and also because of a really dark, dingy, extremely dated (and almost Shore Mall, AC-like) interior. Valu-City and Burlington Coat Factories were the main anchors. But, in this decade, a movie theater was built next to the mall, which seems to be drawing more traffic.

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  9. I moved out of the region for a bit, and returned after the Macy’s acquision of Philadelphia’s “Strawbridge’s” and New England’s “Filene’s” (where I lived). I went downtown to the old “Strawbridge’s” location at the Gallery and was saddened that it was CLOSED! I had no idea! But I guess the outcome made sense considerring the former Lord & Taylor turining into Macy’s a couple blocks away. In any event, I began ponderring ways the Strawbridge’s location can be saved! Imagine if Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales, Sears, or Nordtrom were to buy it! (Noticeably off the list is “Boscov’s”.. I HATE BOSCOV’S!) It could likely help contribute to the revitilization of the Gallery, East Market Street, Center City, and Philadelphia in general! I MISS THE OLD STRAWBRIDGE’S! Any effort to save the building I so support!!!

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