Thursday, July 11, 2013

Changes Coming on Market East

Now that PREIT has finally consolidated the last piece of the Gallery at Market East quagmire, the company that controls 45% of the leasable mall space in the region is primed for a major cohesive overhaul. In the words of Peter Griffin, "that was an ordeal."

Joe Coradino who runs PREIT, made promising remarks, comparing Center City to Manhattan and Chicago and expressed a clear understanding of the importance of the Gallery as a suburban transportation hub.

Coradino is focusing on two options: "high end fashion anchor" or "fast fashion and food." Both are a step up from what it's become. But keep in mind, the Gallery's reputation as a low end "dead mall" is relatively recent.

Despite it's brutal architecture, a decade ago the Gallery wasn't the four-letter-word of Market East. In fact, it was what kept it alive. Strawbridge's was a high end department store that did relatively well, and it anchored a mall that catered to a diverse clientele. Essentially it catered to what Philadelphia was. Whatever the mall becomes, catering to what Philadelphia is, is the marketing strategy that will succeed.

People love to crap on the Gallery, but that's largely because of what it's become. It's become Philadelphia's poster child for "why malls fail in city centers." Maybe that's true. Maybe inward facing malls that fortress themselves from the streets do fail in urban cores. But instead of focusing on the book jacket, let's focus on the potential asset we have on Market East. 

If Coradino can sign an attractive anchor that puts the mall in the black, not only will it raise the eyebrows of smaller retailers, PREIT will finally see the profits to bring the mall up to what the 21st Century says urban shopping should encompass.

With a few doors and windows facing Market Street, the architecture really isn't that bad. In fact, it could be downright fantastic. With any luck, in a few years the only question will be why the Disney Hole is still a parking lot.

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