PLYMOUTH MEETING MALL
Hickory Road and West Germantown Pike
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

In March 1963, plans were announced for what would become Greater Philadelphia's third fully-enclosed shopping center. The complex would be designed by Los Angeles' Victor Gruen Associates. Maryland's James W. Rouse Company, under the auspices of its Community Research & Development subsidiary, would be in charge of construction.

PLYMOUTH MEETING MALL was built on an 89 acre plot, formerly occupied by Meehan's Nursery. The site was located 19 miles northwest of Center City Philadelphia, in an unincorporated section of Montgomery County known as Plymouth Township.

Ground was broken October 21, 1964 for the first phase, a 2-level (214,600 square foot), Philadelphia-based Strawbridge & Clothier. The new department store was open for business by October 1965. Work commenced on the mall's second anchor on November 16, 1965. The 2-level (185,000 square foot), Philadelphia-based Lit Brothers was officially dedicated October 10, 1966.

Meanwhile, an official grand opening for PLYMOUTH MEETING MALL had been held February 22, 1966. The 38 million dollar, 2-level complex encompassed 784,000 leasable square feet and initially housed seventy stores and services.

Charter tenants included Peoples Drug, Adams Clothes, Pennsylvania Saving Fund Society, Jacobs Brothers TV & Electronics, Hobbyland, Fabric Tree, an F.W. Woolworth 5 & 10 (with Plymouth Grill snack bar) and Food Fair supermarket (which was rebranded as a Pantry Pride in 1970).

The General Cinema Corporation Cinema-On-The-Mall had showed its first feature June 29, 1966. The adjacent One Plymouth Meeting office tower was completed in 1969.

On January 10, 1970, a blaze ignited in the display window of the King's Men's Shop and spread through the East Wing of the mall. Nearly thirty stores were damaged by flames, smoke or water. This portion of the complex was closed off for repairs.

Stores re-opened incrementally, with some permanently relocating to other area shopping centers. The movie house was rebuilt as the On-The-Mall Cinema I & II, a twin-plex that debuted on December 25, 1970. By May 1971, all of the damaged stores had re-opened.

PLYMOUTH MEETING MALL encountered a second setback in the late 1970s. Pantry Pride and Lit Brothers were shuttered in March 1977. The vacant supermarket was divided into several new inline stores.

The Lit's building sat vacant for over 2 years, which caused a sharp decline in business in the mall's East Wing. The vacant anchor store was finally retenanted by Allentown, Pennsylvania-based Hess's. Their PLYMOUTH MEETING store welcomed its first shoppers in August 1979.

A local Presbyterian congregation had held Sunday services in the Community Room of PLYMOUTH MEETING MALL since the center's grand opening days. They eventually built a sanctuary on the south side of the complex. The first services at their new Church On the Mall building were held in 1972.

The nearest regional shopping center to PLYMOUTH MEETING MALL was KING OF PRUSSIA PLAZA (1963) {5.7 miles southwest, in Montgomery County}. Other shopping centers in the PLYMOUTH MEETING trade area included MONTGOMERY MALL (1977) {8.2 miles northeast, in Montgomery County} and WILLOW GROVE PARK MALL (1982) {8.3 miles northeast, also in Montgomery County}.

Between November 1983 and November 1984, the PLYMOUTH MEETING property was given a face lift. Sixteen new stores joined the tenant list and a 2-story antique carousel was added to the Hess's Court. At the same time, America's first Ikea was built as a southwestern outparcel. The 1-level (160,000 square foot) store opened for business June 12, 1985.

The family-owned Strawbridge & Clothier chain was sold to May Department stores, of St. Louis, in July of 1996. As of July 24th, all stores, including the PLYMOUTH MEETING MALL location, were officially promoted as "Strawbridge's". Hess's was shuttered in March 1993. This store re-opened, as a Reading, Pennsylvania-based Boscov's, October 13, 1996.

In late 1996, a 50 million dollar remodeling of PLYMOUTH MEETING MALL got underway. The interior received another face lift, the Boscov's Court carousel was moved toward the center of the complex and three new mall entrances were built. Moreover, a new 9-bay Food Court was installed in a vacated cinema.

PLYMOUTH MEETING MALL was officially re-dedicated December 10, 1998. New stores and services included Bertucci's Brick Oven Pizza, Joyce Leslie ladies' wear, Super Footlocker Triplex, Bucks County Coffee and Bell Atlantic Nynex Mobile. The General Cinema Corporation Plymouth Meeting Mall 12, a freestanding structure, was also built in the southeast parking area. Its first features were shown December 18, 1998.

With the new century came a new proprietor. The Philadephia-based Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust acquired the complex in March 2003. On September 9, 2006, the PLYMOUTH MEETING Strawbridge's was rebranded by Macy's.

Soon after, adjacent store space was rebuilt as a 2-level (34,800 square foot) Dave & Buster's Grand Sports Cafe. Its grand opening was held in July 2008. On the south side of the mall, the first earth had been turned for an 84 million dollar mall expansion. The project, which got underway in May 2007, included demolition of the Ikea store (vacated in early 2003) and construction of a 143,500 square foot lifestyle wing known as the Plaza Shops.

This new addition covered a 350-space parking deck. Its first stores, Ann Taylor Loft, Coldwater Creek, Chico's and Jos. A. Bank, opened May 1, 2009. A (65,000 square foot) Whole Foods Market anchored the addition and was dedicated January 12, 2010. PLYMOUTH MEETING MALL now encompassed approximately 948,000 leasable square feet and contained over one hundred and ten stores and services.

Macy's pulled the plug on their PLYMOUTH MEETING store in March 2017. By this time, the mall's proprietor had announced plans to retenant the structure as a "lifestyle destination". As this was being plotted, Lower Level space in the center of the mall was reconfigured.

Area previously occupied by The Shoe Department, New York & Company, Borders Express, A T & T and five Food Court stalls was rebuilt as a 1-level (33,000 square foot) Legoland Discovery Center. This family fun facility opened for business in March 2017.

Sources:

The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Times-Herald
www.shopplymouthmeetingmall.com
www.globefest.com
www.cinematreasures.org
http://www.alexanderbuilding.com
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania tax assessor website
http://www.churchonthemall.com
"Plymouth Meeting Mall" article on Wikipedia
www.preit.com (Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust)
http://www.njpajournal.com