BERGEN MALL
East Route 4 and Forest Avenue
Paramus and Maywood, New Jersey

The first major shopping mall in New Jersey, Paramus' GARDEN STATE PLAZA, was completed in phases between May 1957 and September 1960. The state's second regional-class shopping center, BERGEN MALL, was built one half mile east of GARDEN STATE PLAZA, on a site straddling the corporate line of the cities of Paramus and Maywood.

BERGEN, the first shopping center in the world to be officially referred to as a (quote / unquote) "mall", held its grand opening November 14, 1957. It was designed by Seattle's John Graham, Junior, developed by New York City-based Allied Stores and constructed on an 85 acre site, located 10.5 miles northwest of Manhattan's Times Square.

The 902,800 square foot, open-air complex was situated with 2 levels and anchored by a 4-level (320,000 square foot), Stern's department store (based, at the time, in New York City). Among the sixty-three charter stores and services were Lerner Shops, Nelson Furs, A.S. Beck Shoes, Brill Hardware, Fanny Farmer Candies, Mallary Furniture, Thom McAn Shoes and a 2-level (46,700 square foot) J.J. Newberry 5 & 10.

Food Fair and Penn Fruit supermarkets were located in the Bergen Mall Food Center, an outparcel convenience center connected to the east end of the mall via a pedestrian and auto bridge. The Lower Level of BERGEN MALL included the Ten Pin On The Mall bowling alley, Kiddieland kiddie ride area and, eventually, the Carmelite Chapel of St. Therese (1971).

The B.S. Moss Enterprises Mall Theatre showed its first feature in mid-1960. The single-screen venue was housed within the mall and was accessed from its rear (or south) parking area. It was shuttered in the late 1980s. A live performance venue, the Playhouse On The Mall, was dedicated September 18, 1962. The facility encompassed 11,000 square feet and was a BERGEN MALL tenant until June 1986.

A 2-level (135,000 square foot), New York City-based Ohrbach's was added to the west end of the mall and opened for business August 17, 1967. A freestanding Korvette City discount mart was also built as a peripheral structure. It was located north of the mall, on the opposite side of State Route 4, and was connected to the mall via footbridge.

On September 16, 1973, a 1.2 million dollar renovation of the shopping center was completed. BERGEN MALL had been enclosed and its interior spaces refurbished with '70s Mod decor. An Early American-theme "Village Mall" was installed on the Lower Level (where Kiddieland had been). This mall within a mall encompassed sixty small store spaces and opened for business August 20, 1975.

The roofing renovation kept BERGEN MALL competitive with other regional-class shopping centers in its trade area. In addition to GARDEN STATE PLAZA {1/2 mile west, in Paramus}, there were FASHION CENTER (1967) {3.4 miles northwest, in Paramus}, PARAMUS PARK (1974) {2.6 miles northwest, also in Paramus} and RIVERSIDE SQUARE MALL (1977) {1.3 miles southeast, in Hackensack}.

As the years passed, BERGEN MALL became stuck in a time warp. There were no major renovations and anchor stores came and went. Ohrbach's became an Asbury Park, New Jersey-based Steinbach February 1, 1987 and a Columbus, Ohio-based Value City in November 1996. This store was shuttered in January 2006.

J.J. Newberry was shuttered in early 1994. Its space re-opened, as a 2-level Marshalls, in the fall of 1994. Adjacent store space was fashioned into a 2-level (32,000 square foot) Saks OFF Fifth, which welcomed its first shoppers in November 1996. Stern's was rebranded by Macy's in May 2001 and closed in April 2005.

The 903,000 square foot BERGEN MALL was purchased by the New Jersey-based Vornado Realty Trust in December 2003. The firm changed the name of the complex to BERGEN TOWN CENTER and started a 171 million dollar renovation in late 2006.

This included a complete interior-exterior remodeling. The old Ohrbach's / Steinbach / Value City was demolished. An extended West Wing was built, which was anchored by a 2-level (121,900 square foot) Target. The discount retailer opened for business March 7, 2009.

A 3-level section of the vacant Stern's was configured as a (145,300 square foot), New York City-based Century 21. This store was dedicated October 10, 2006. The bottom floor became a (50,500 square foot) Filene's Basement. It held a grand opening on October 28, 2007, but closed in 2009.

The basement was divided into two stores. A (22,100 square foot) Bloomingdale's-The Outlet began business August 27, 2010. A (28,400 square foot) HomeGoods opened its doors in October 2013. The bulk of the building's fourth floor was leased as the (30,000 square foot) Lincoln Technical Institute.

Elsewhere in the mall, a 2-level (77,200 square foot) Whole Foods Market was dedicated March 19, 2009. This was followed by a 1-level (36,400 square foot) Nordstrom Rack, which debuted on March 21, 2009. A ceremony marking the official grand re-opening of the retail hub was held on August 25th.

A new name was bestowed in mid-2010. The facility would be known, henceforth, as OUTLETS AT BERGEN TOWN CENTER. A 1-level (16,000 square foot) Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio opened November 19, 2010. With this store in operation, the complex encompassed 917,100 leasable square feet housed one hundred tenants under its roof.

Several freestanding structures were built in the mall's periphery. These included Lowe's (117,000 square feet), Ulta Beauty, Jared The Galleria of Jewelry, Bahama Breeze and Olive Garden. A 25,000 square foot strip center housed stores such as Adidas Outlet, Jos. A. Bank Factory Store, Chico's Outlet, Torrid and Pei Wei Asian Diner.

The old Bergen Mall Food Center, on the east end of the complex, was partially demolished. The Food Fair building was retained and sectioned into three retail areas. The largest opened, as a (24,100 square foot) REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated), in September 2011. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers served its first meals in October 2013.

In January 2015, the Vornado Realty Trust completed the spin-off of a new public company known as Urban Edge Retail Properties. OUTLETS AT BERGEN TOWN CENTER became one of its holdings. In December 2015, Urban Edge announced plans for a prospective expansion of the complex. The 130 million dollar project would add a 200,000+ square foot third retail level to the existing structure.

Sources:

http://www.myspace.com / bergenmall / Site maintained by Jordan B.
Malls Of America blogsite / "Bergen Mall' thread
preservenet.cornell.edu/publications/Longstreth Branch Store.doc
www.cinematreasures.org
"Ohrbach's" article on Wikipedia
"Steinbach'" article on Wikipedia
http://www.bergenonline.com
http://www.bergencounty.com / "Remembering Playhouse On The Mall"
www.coopercarry.com (Cooper Carry Architecture)