The scene at the East Coast’s largest mall on a recent Friday morning would seem to fly in the face of the doomsday narrative surrounding U.S. retail centers. A steady stream of holiday shoppers walked the lacquered halls, browsing stores from Gap to Gucci. By noon, a line was snaking out of an outpost of the Shake Shack burger chain.
In the background, changes are afoot to ensure the crowds keep coming, writes National Real Estate Investor.
King of Prussia Mall, a 2.8 million-square-foot (260,000-square-meter) shopping wonderland northwest of Philadelphia, is the type of destination center that mall defenders say can defy the rise of online shopping. It’s a sprawling complex that houses stores from all corners of the retail universe, more than 50 food venues and a concierge lounge. Yet it still has to grapple with today’s reality, such as a J.C. Penney that shut down in July and left a hole in a key anchor spot.
Owner Simon Property Group Inc., the largest U.S. mall landlord, sees the closure as an opportunity — to bet on non-retail uses. For the first time since Woolworth’s and E.J. Korvette opened their doors more than 50 years ago, a sizable chunk of land at King of Prussia will be dedicated to something other than stores and restaurants. Simon is planning a mixed-used development for the 17-acre (6.9-hectare) site of the J.C. Penney and its parking lot, part of an eventual transformation that Chief Executive Officer David Simon has likened to a suburban version of Hudson Yards, the massive complex of offices, shops and residences on Manhattan’s western edge.
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