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Outlets hope to lure ‘destination shoppers’ back to Center City

5/22/2015 | Real Estate Blog

It may be difficult for Baby Boomers to think of Philadelphia and the concept of “destination shopping” without sighing, even momentarily, for Wanamaker’s, Lit Brothers, Gimbel’s and Strawbridge and Clothier. These were the stores you would get dressed up to go to, the stores where your mother would buy you a new Easter dress or necktie. There were sales once or twice a year, and a day of shopping would include lunch or tea at one of the in-store restaurants.

As those days began to fade, the concept of the outlet mall began to emerge. This was another destination shopping trip, in part because of the promised discounts, but also because outlet malls were in the far reaches of the metro; these were locations not accessible by public transportation, so shopping became a road trip.

Who would have guessed that the outlet concept would take such a hold on consumers that developers would move them all the way into the city? The Planning Commission has thrown its support behind a proposal to turn the Gallery at Market East into the Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia, replete with brand-name stores and no “middle-man” department stores.

The developer is Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, and funding comes from both public and private sources. The overhaul will, according to PREIT, update the 1.5 million-square-foot property into a modern space with a mix of tenants, including entertainment venues, restaurants, office space and, of course, retail.

The space will be enclosed, but don’t mistake it for a traditional enclosed mall. We’ll explain the difference in our next post.

Sources:, “Finding a retail inlet with outlet markets,” Suzette Parmley, May 21, 2015

CBS Philly, “Plan To Redesign, Rebrand Center City Gallery Shopping Mall Moving Along,” Steve Tawa, April 16, 2015