Philadelphia’s 1970s downtown mall in the Market East neighborhood, The Gallery, has been headed for a makeover for some time now — but this week, developers released details on what’s to become “the Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia.”
The vision for the shopping center might not have the ski slope or Legoland that’s on the drawing board for Miami’s new super-mall, but city officials hope the renovation and rebranding will rejuvenate a section of Center City that one Philadelphia Inquirer reporter describes as a “notorious dead spot.”
Once the necessary city approvals are in place, the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), a partner in the project, expects the effort to take two years, during which most of the one-million-plus-square-foot space will be closed.
“The project will offer a fusion of outlet retail taking the form of luxury and moderate brands, traditional mall retail, popular flagship retail, artisanal food experiences and entertainment offerings,” PREIT reps said in a statement. Joseph F. Coradino, CEO of PREIT, said the redevelopment would position the area to be the “next great urban marketplace in the United States.”
According to the Inquirer, the city will invest about $113 million in the project. “This is the single best opportunity in decades to bring Market East back to full strength,” said Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger. He also noted the developments would bring over 1,000 new jobs.
The project will displace a lot of shoppers as well as people who spend their days at the popular Gallery. The space is seldom deserted, and the Inquirer notes that “for many working-class African Americans who travel there from outlying neighborhoods, the Gallery has been a place to get a cup of coffee, grab a meal, or sit and chat with friends. Retirees whiled away the day at the food court, and young people met there after school.”
“That’s what’s going to be lost when the Gallery changes,” Elijah Anderson, a sociologist who has studied the center, told the newspaper. “Those people really have no place to go now.”
Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.