Troubled Moorestown Mall May Get Township’s Assistance to Reinvent Itself

When Moorestown Mall was a month from opening, the builder predicted the project at Route 38 and Lenola Road embodied the future of retailing.

The mall “sets a pattern for enclosed mall shopping centers for perhaps 25 years to come,” the president of realty firm Winston-Muss said in the Courier-Post in August 1963.

That prediction would have made the mall — with anchor department stores Wanamaker’s and Gimbels and about 75 other tenants — a trendsetter into 1988.

But it’s 2021 now. Wanamaker’s and Gimbels are long gone, as are three of the mall’s four most-recent anchor tenants: Macy’s, Sears and Lord & Taylor. Now Boscov’s remains as the sole anchor store. Add in the devastating effects of online shopping and the current COVID-19 pandemic and you have a poor investment in the form of more than 1 million square feet of leasable space sitting on about 86 acres.”Moorestown Mall is at a critical juncture,” current owner states in a Moorestown Township report on the property. “Redeveloping the center and adding complementary uses will support the mall, stabilizing, and improving its performance.”

The Moorestown Planning Board Thursday night will hold a virtual public hearing to help determine if the mall is an “area in need of redevelopment,” a designation that under state law permits municipalities to offer tax breaks on property improvements. On January 11 announced it plans for as many as 1,065 multifamily units and a hotel at the site to shore up its troubled mall investment.

Members of the public can watch the meeting on livestream, but must use the telephone to join the meeting and make comments, according to the township. The agenda has instructions on how to watch or join the meeting by telephone.

Moorestown Planning Board agenda

Moorestown report on designating mall a redevelopment areaMoorestown Mall is the fourth-largest enclosed mall in South Jersey. The largest is the Cherry Hill Mall, which is two years older than Moorestown Mall and about four miles west on Route 38. The second-largest mall is Deptford Mall and third-largest is what was Echelon Mall, now called Voorhees Town Center after undergoing its own transformation.

In Moorestown, Macy’s closed in the first quarter of 2017 and Lord & Taylor and Sears left the mall in the first quarter of 2020, according to the township’s preliminary report, which will be used to help decide whether to designate the property as an area in need of redevelopment. Boscov’s lease goes to 2028, as does that of Regal Cinemas, the movie theater that still has not reopened in the current pandemic.

“Many businesses are shrinking or closing altogether, reducing shopping center occupancy and rents. The notable exceptions are grocery, drug, and home improvement stores,” the Taylor report states, quoting a 2020 real estate emerging trends study by the Urban Land Institute, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit.

“The expected returns for retail real state are cited as poor to fair. Regional malls are noted to be the weakest retail investment below, (in ranked order) neighborhood and community shopping centers, lifestyle entertainment centers, outlet centers, power centers and urban and high street retail,” the Taylor report states in its excerpt from the ULI study.*Article courtesy of 70 and 73

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