Cooper University Health Care is a big buyer at Moorestown Mall

MOORESTOWN – A planned health care center at Moorestown Mall has already provided a cash infusion to the shopping center’s owner.

Cooper University Health Care paid $10.1 million for a former Sears store that is to hold medical offices at the Route 38 complex, according to records posted online by the Burlington County Clerk’s Office.

That sale and the pending revival of a long-vacant anchor store reflect a growth strategy for the mall’s owner, Philadelphia-based PREIT.

The mall operator wants to diversify its shopping centers away from a traditional base of retail tenants, while also generating revenue by selling off parts of its properties.

PREIT last year announced plans to bring a hotel and up to 1,065 apartments to the  parking lot of Moorestown Mall in a “densification” effort. The first property sale for that multi-stage effort is expected to provide $8 million, the firm said.

Camden-based Cooper will occupy more than 165,000 square feet at the Sears site, which has been vacant since April 2011.

Cooper has disclosed few details for a project “in the early planning stage.” But it says the Route 38 location will offer outpatient services in a “state-of-the-art multi-specialty facility.”

“The Cooper partnership reflects a very intentional and strategic focus by (PREIT) to address necessary transitions of anchor space,” Heather Crowell, the mall company’s executive vice president, said Wednesday.

She noted PREIT has found replacements for 19 anchor stores in the past five years, with new tenants including health care, fitness, grocery, and entertainment and dining.

Moorestown Mall also held a COVID-19 vaccination site in a former Lord + Taylor department store. It closed on July 23.

PREIT and Cooper aren’t alone in converting retail space to medical use.

The state’s largest hospital operator, RWJBarnabas Health, broke ground in March for an 82,000-square-foot building as part of a redevelopment project at Monmouth Mall in Eatontown. 

The Monmouth County site will offer “a wide range of health care services in a convenient retail setting,” the health system said in a statement.

It noted the facility will include “custom-designed spaces” for women’s services and specialized pediatric care, as well as a commercial-grade kitchen to support a wellness center and host educational events.

PREIT owns 18 “core” properties that include Cherry Hill Mall and Cumberland Mall in Vineland. It also has interests in Fashion District Philadelphia and Gloucester Premium Outlets.

The mall operator is counting on its new strategy to snap a years-long financial skid, caused in large part by the rise of online shopping and retail bankruptcies.

PREIT in May posted a net loss of $49.6 million, or 64 cents per share, for this year’s first quarter. That followed deficits of $286.9 million in 2020, $38.2 million in 2019, and $137.7 million in 2018.

But Crowell predicted said the emphasis on health care and other new tenants is “the right model for sustained long-term growth.”

“We continue to be pleased with positive momentum,” she added.

*Article courtesy of Courier Post

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