Market and 9th Streets
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Market East area, radiating from the intersection of 12th and Market Streets in Center City Philadelphia, was the central point of trade for the region between the early 1800s and 1930s.

By the mid-20th century, its prominence had faded. This was due to several factors, among them, the rapid suburbanization of the city and development of outlying shopping centers, such as CHERRY HILL MALL (1961) {in New Jersey} and KING OF PRUSSIA PLAZA (1963) and PLYMOUTH MEETING MALL (1966) {in Pennsylvania}.

As an attempt to bolster the city's declining downtown, a Center City retail and transit hub complex was on the drawing board by the mid-1950s. The first concrete proposal was completed in 1958. This plan was revised in 1960, and 1963, and was approved by civic leaders in 1964.

The Redevelopment Authority of the City of Philadelphia secured initial funding from the Department of Housing & Urban Development. A joint venture was formed between the Redevelopment Authority, Maryland-based Rouse Company and Gimbels-Philadelphia. Construction commenced in 1974.

A first phase project, officially known as GALLERY AT MARKET EAST, was designed by John Bower of Bower & Fradley Architects. The complex, which encompassed 447,400 leasable square feet, was dedicated August 11, 1977.

Comprising 4 levels of retail, the GALLERY occupied 4.7 acres, stretching from the intersection of 10th and Market Streets over to the circa-1931 Strawbridge & Clothier building, which stood at 8th and Market.

Strawbridge & Clothier consisted a 7-level (522,000 square foot) flagship store and 5-level home office. A new 4-level (300,000 square foot) Gimbels-Philadelphia was the second GALLERY AT MARKET EAST anchor. Charter inline tenants included Waldenbooks, Tiffany's Bakery and the Luncheon Center (which was eventually renamed The Food Court).

The main feature of GALLERY AT MARKET EAST was a naturally lit, 4-level interior court, with sixteen escalators, modern statuary and 40-foot-tall Ficus trees. Subterranean concourses linked the (basement) Mall Level with two major transit hubs; the SEPTA 8th Street Station and PATCO 8th & Market Station.

A second phase of the Center City shopopolis was developed on the block bounded by 11th, Market, 10th and Filbert Streets. Commonly known as GALLERY II, it was dedicated October 12, 1983 and encompassed 371,600 leasable square feet and ninety stores and services. With its completion, the original -circa-1977- structure would be referred to as GALLERY I.

Like its predecessor, GALLERY II consisted of 4 levels of retail. It was anchored by a 3-level (184,000 square foot) J.C. Penney. The new mall section included subterranean connections between its Mall Level and SEPTA 11th Street Station. Moreover, a new SEPTA Regional Rail terminal, the Market East Station, was built along with GALLERY II and was directly accessed from its Mall Level.

The two components were joined by concourses extending under 9th and 10th Streets and also by Second and Third Level bridges over 9th and 10th. The Street Level (or ground floor) was divided into three parts by 9th and 10th Streets.

Collectively, GALLERY AT MARKET EAST occupied eight Center City acres, encompassed approximately 819,000 leasable square feet and contained a total of two hundred and fifteen stores and services. The facility was connected, via skybridge, to two parking garages.

Gimbels was the first GALLERY anchor to be rebranded. New Jersey-based Stern's took over its space on August 18, 1986. This store lasted until March 1992. A portion of the space became a 1-level (99,000 square foot) Clover.

This discount branch of Strawbridge & Clothier began business August 7, 1995. After Clover's departure, its area became part of a Big Kmart. The 2-level (150,000 square foot) location, reputedly the first in a major city downtown district, opened November 20, 1997.

J.C. Penney was shuttered in late 2001. Burlington Coat Factory opened their 3-level (147,000 square foot) store on August 21, 2003. By this time, GALLERY AT MARKET EAST was struggling to keep tenants.

Strawbridge's, was shuttered September 9, 2006. The mall, which had been successful during the 1970s and 1980s, had slowly morphed into more of a discount-oriented facility. Its two upper floors had been largely vacant for years.

Plans for a Center City Philadelphia casino were being discussed in the early 2000s. Originally proposed for a south Philadelphia riverfront site, the location of the prospective Foxwoods Casino Philadelphia was changed due to community opposition.

In the autumn of 2008, it was decided to attempt to install the facility in the existing GALLERY AT MARKET EAST complex. At first, the existing Burlington Coat Factory was to be relocated. In February 2009, the plan was altered again. Now, the casino was to occupy 3 floors of the vacant Strawbridge's store. This plan was aborted in February 2010, when the prospective location of the casino was shifted back to the original south Philly site.

Alas, GALLERY AT MARKET EAST would not have a gambling hall. However, vacant Second and Third Level space was reconfigured as office suites. Health Patients Plans expanded their existing GALLERY office block from 140,000 to 214,000 square feet. The Philadelphia Media Network moved into a 125,000 square foot block in July 2012. 

Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) had acquired the bulk of GALLERY I in April 2003 and most of GALLERY II (excluding the Big Kmart store) in March 2004. In April 2013, PREIT acquired the Kmart space. They now owned the majority of the GALLERY AT MARKET EAST complex. The Big Kmart store was shuttered in April 2014.

California's Macerich Company entered into a joint venture with PREIT in July 2014. They announced a massive 325 million dollar renovation, which would be aided by 149 million dollars in tax breaks.

The renewed retail, restaurant and entertainment complex would be known as FASHION OUTLETS OF PHILADELPHIA. The first new tenant, a New York City-based Century 21, was installed in a portion of the vacant Strawbridge's structure. The (98,000 square foot) store opened its doors on October 23, 2014.

The GALLERY I section was shuttered on October 2, 2015. Reconstruction work commenced soon after. In August 2017, developers announced several changes. The complex-to-be would not be an outlet-type facility, but more of an upscale, retail, restaurant and entertainment venue. Its official name was changed to FASHION DISTRICT PHILADELPHIA.

Burlington relocated into a 2-level store on the opposite end of the complex and opened for business September 22, 2017. New tenants were also announced. The center would be housing Levi Strauss & Company, Francesca's, Columbia Sportswear, Skechers Shoes, a 3-level (38,000 square foot) H & M and state-of-the-art AMC 8-plex.

A first stage of stores was dedicated in November 2018, with a final phase opening in November 2019. The revitalized shopping hub now contained over 1 million leasable square feet of retail and 339,000 square feet of office suites.

Sources: ("Historic Structures in the Redevelopment Process, Market Street East, Philadelphia" - Lisa Marie Kolakowsky
The Lakeland (Florida) Ledger