MOORESTOWN MALL
Route 38 (Kaighns Avenue) and Lenola Road
Burlington County (Moorestown Township), New Jersey

New Jersey's second interior mall was developed by New York City's Winston-Muss Corporation and designed by Seattle's John Graham, Junior. MOORESTOWN MALL occupied an 83.4 acre tract. This was located 13 miles east of Center City Philadelphia, in an unincorporated section of Burlington County known as Moorestown Township.

The single-level shopping hub had been built a mere 2.9 miles east of South Jersey's CHERRY HILL MALL (1961). The MOORESTOWN facility was anchored by a 2-level (203,000 square foot) Gimbels-Philadelphia and 2-level (200,000 square foot), Philadelphia-based John Wanamaker. Dedicated on September 16, 1963, these were the first operational stores in the complex.

Gimbels-Philadelphia and John Wanamaker were retail adversaries of Philadelphia's Strawbridge & Clothier chain. The stores had been blocked, by Strawbridge's, from anchoring CHERRY HILL MALL. As a result, MOORESTOWN MALL was developed as a showcase for new, suburban Gimbels and Wanamaker's locations not permitted to lease (or own) space at CHERRY HILL.

MOORESTOWN MALL was formally dedicated on March 11, 1964. Among the forty-two charter tenants were Thrift Drugs, Bond Clothes, Florsheim Shoes, Holiday Shoes, a Fifth Avenue Card Shop, (27,000 square foot) ShopRite supermarket and (75,000 square foot) F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10. The RKO-Stanley-Warner Plaza Theatre showed its first feature on June 10, 1964.

The enclosed shopping concourse included several themed garden areas along its 1,000 foot length. There were also duck ponds, populated by Mallards and Rocky Mountain Browns. The Gimbels Atrium, on the east end, featured camelia trees, azalea bushes and "The Great Winged One", a French-made sculpture and fountain. On the west end of the complex, the Wanamaker Court included a fountain and Wanamaker Eagle sculpture.

Regional shopping centers in the MOORESTOWN MALL trade area included the aforementioned CHERRY HILL MALL, as well as ECHELON MALL (1970) {6.3 miles southwest, in Camden County}, BURLINGTON CENTER MALL (1982) {9.6 miles northeast, in Burlington County} and FRANKLIN MILLS (1989) {9.5 miles north, in Philadelphia}.

The first expansion of MOORESTOWN MALL was completed in the early 1970s. A 3-level (158,000 square foot) Sears was built at the center's Main Entrance. The store, which commenced operation on October 6, 1971, included a Beauty Salon, Community Room, Contemporary Coffee House snack bar and freestanding (23-bay) Sears Auto Center.

The second major mall renovation got underway in January 1986. The supermarket space (which had housed a Pathmark grocery since 1967) was gutted. Its area was rebuilt into a 13-bay Food Court. By this time, the adjacent movie house had been divided and was operating as the Eric Twin Plaza Moorestown Mall.

A mall-wide face lift was done as the Food Court was being completed. New porcelain tile floors, mirrored storefronts, landscaping, neon fixtures and skylights were installed. The 10 million dollar remodeling was completed in November 1986. MOORESTOWN MALL now housed one hundred and fifteen stores and services.

Gimbels had morphed into a New Jersey-based Stern's in August 1986. It was rebranded, as Ports of The World (a discount branch of Reading, Pennsylvania-based Boscov's) in November 1990. The store was given a bona fide Boscov's nameplate in 1992.

A fire devastated the mall on December 23, 1992. Starting in the West Wing, in Herman's World of Sporting Goods, the blaze destroyed five inline stores and damaged an additional thirty-seven. Eighty-eight of the shopping center's one hundred and eighteen tenants had re-opened by December 1993. The interior of MOORESTOWN MALL had been given a face lift as part of the rebuilding process.

In September 1995, Wanamaker's was rebranded as an Arlington, Virginia-based Hecht's, which became a Strawbridge's on July 24, 1996. In February 1997, Chicago-based Heitman Retail Properties announced a major expansion and renovation of their MOORESTOWN property.

This project would have added a second retail level. Moreover, two anchor stores would have been renovated. Strawbridge's was to be demolished and replaced with a West Wing, anchored by new Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom stores. A 14- screen megaplex cinema was also mentioned.

Plans for this remodeling were slightly altered. In November 1997, the Maryland-based Rouse Company bought the mall, in a move to control competition with their CHERRY HILL MALL. Rouse initiated a scaled-down MOORESTOWN MALL renovation in February 1998. Strawbridge's was shuttered , demolished and replaced. A 2-level (200,000 square foot) store was dedicated November 10, 1999.

Lord & Taylor opened a 2-level (120,000 square foot) location on March 1, 2000. With this addition, the shopping center housed 1,044,800 leasable square feet and contained one hundred and twenty retail spaces.

The southern half of a vacant Woolworth store was rebuilt into a (30,600 square foot) Vans Skatepark, which opened in April 2001. This morphed into the Black Diamond Skatepark in December 2006. The Strawbridge's store had been rebranded as a Macy's on September 9 of the same year.

The Philadephia-based Pennylvania Real Estate Investment Trust had acquired MOORESTOWN MALL in March 2003. In 2007, they started a renovation, which created new exterior-entranced stores along the mall's north facade.

These included Lane Furniture, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Eastern Mountain Sports; the latter holding its grand opening May 2, 2008. A freestanding structure was also built in the northeast parking area. This housed Potbelly Sandwich Works and Pei Wei Asian Diner. These began business during the summer of 2008.

The mall makeover continued into the twenty-tens. The state-of-the-art Regal Moorestown Mall Stadium 12 & RPX theater was installed in space previously occupied by the circa-1964 cinema. The adjacent Black Diamond Skatepark was shuttered in March 2012. Its area was gutted and became part of the new movie megaplex, which showed its features on December 12, 2013.

By this time, PREIT was busy repositioning MOORESTOWN MALL as a more upscale shopping, dining and entertainment venue. A November 2011 voter referendum repealed a local ordinance forbidding the sale of liquor by-the-drink. This made it possible to lease mall space to five new casual dining establishments.

The first in business was Mark Vetri's Osteria, which debuted November 18, 2013. Next in line was Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, dedicated December 23, 2013. Jose Garce's Distrito welcomed its first diners July 3, 2014, followed by Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar, on March 16, 2015.

Yard House opened its doors December 5, 2015. This eatery was adjacent to the circa-1986 Food Court, which had just emerged from a renovation. Renamed the Dining Court, the 7-bay food facility featured four new tenants; Moondog Cafe, Brooklyn Pizza, Suki Hana Japan and Suki Hana Sushi.

As new food service vendors were being established in MOORESTOWN MALL, the West Wing of the shopping hub was reconfigured as "Boutique Row", a collection of high-end shoppes and exercise facilities. Opened between October and December 2014, they included Rizzieri Salon & Spa, OrangeTheory Fitness, Erdon, Zeyzani and Never Too Spoiled. Swedish specialty retailer H & M dedicated a (19,000 square foot) store on September 22, 2016.

The MOORESTOWN Macy's shut down in early 2017. PREIT acquired the vacant building and reconfigured it as five store spaces. A (25,000 square foot) HomeSense and (18,000 square foot) Sierra Trading Post were dedicated in late 2018.

Sources:

The (Camden) Courier-Post
Comment posts by Michael Lisicky and "Don K"
Malls of America Blogspot / Keith Milford webmaster
www.cinematreasures.org
www.philly.com
www.preit.com
http://articles.philly.com
www.phillymag.com
http://www.moorestownmall.com
http://sjmagazine.net