Today's PRINCETON CENTER. After over 60 years of commerce, it differs little from the original mid-1950s mall. However, its anchor store (now a McCaffrey's Market) was substantially renovated and expanded in the early 1990s. The mall's present GLA stands at 232,400 leasable square feet.


PRINCETON CENTER
Harrison Street North and Clearview Avenue
Mercer County (Princeton Township), New Jersey

Plans for the Garden State's first shopping mall were underway by the early 1950s. Theodore Potts, of the Borough of Princeton, acquired a 32.6 acre parcel, located .9 mile northwest of the city's Palmer Square. At the time, the property was in an unincorporated section of Mercer County known as Princeton Township.

An open-air, courtyard-type shopping facility, going under the original name of CLEARVIEW CENTER, was proposed. Records show that Princeton Township issued a 300,000 dollar building permit for a PRINCETON CENTER in April 1953. Ground was broken soon after.

The complex, which would encompass 205,000 leasable square feet, was designed by Boston's Ketchum, Gina & Sharp firm, who had envisaged Framingham, Massachussetts' revolutionary SHOPPERS' WORLD mall.

One of the first operational stores in PRINCETON CENTER, a (14,900 square foot) Acme supermarket, was in business by February 1954. Newark-based Bamberger's opened their 2-level (63,000 square foot) store September 9, 1954. It was the chain's third branch.

The official dedication of PRINCETON CENTER was held September 30, 1954. A partial listing of original inline stores would include Rosette Pennington ladies' wear, American Stores, Princeton Bank & Trust, Hamilton Jewelers, Sun Ray Drug, Crawford Clothes, Center Barber Shop, an A & P supermarket and S.S. Kresge 5 & 10.

Although PRINCETON CENTER was a modest-sized mall, it was still the largest retail venue in the region for several years. This situation changed with the opening of QUAKER BRIDGE MALL {5.1 miles southwest, in Mercer County}, in 1976.

Upon its grand opening, QUAKER BRIDGE MALL snatched the Bamberger's that had anchored PRINCETON CENTER for over 20 years. A Morristown-based Epstein's department store moved into the vacant space. This store lasted until 1991. Following this, McCaffrey's Market, a locally-owned gourmet grocer, renovated the ground floor of the building and set up shop.

A second major shopping hub was built in the vicinity of PRINCETON CENTER. NASSAU PARK PAVILION {4.1 miles southwest, in Mercer County} was completed in 1995. It, and the adjacent QUAKER BRIDGE MALL, were regional-class venues. With two gigantic shopping hubs in its trade area, PRINCETON CENTER was now -strictly- a community-class complex.

Manhattan's George Comfort & Sons had owned and operated PRINCETON CENTER for several years. By the early 21st century, their historic retail structure was badly in need of renovation. A 5 million dollar remodeling was approved by the local governing body in November 2005.

Completed in August 2007, the project was summed up in the following manner..."a consistent appearance sympathetic to the original design intent is achieved". During the renovation, new terra cotta-colored awnings, signage and lighting were installed. Moreover, the mall's central courtyard was reconfigured and re-landscaped.

Until recently, there were two jurisdictions of Princeton, New Jersey; The Borough of Princeton (the center city) and outlying Princeton Township (in which PRINCETON CENTER was located). In November 2011, an election was held to consolidate the Borough and Township into a single political entity, to be known as simply Princeton. The "yes" votes prevailed and on January 1, 2013, the two jurisdictions became one.

Meanwhile, in June 2012, the shopping hub had been sold. Columbia, South Carolina-based Edens became the new proprietor.

Sources:

Town Topics (Princeton, New Jersey)
Architectural Forum, August 1950
"Princeton, New Jersey" article on Wikipedia
http://www.gcomfort.com (George Comfort & Sons)
www.edens.com
http://www.princetonshoppingcenter.com