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 on two levels and anchored by a 4-level (320,000 square foot), Stern Brothers / Stern's department store (then based in New York City). Among the sixty-three stores and services were a 2-level (46,700 square foot) J.J. Newberry 5 & 10, as well as Lerner Shops, Nelson Furs, A.S. Beck Shoes, Brill Hardware, Fanny Farmer Candies, Mallary Furniture and Thom McAn Shoes.

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 automobile bridge. The Lower Level of BERGEN MALL included a bowling alley, Kiddieland kiddie ride area and Carmelite Chapel of St. Therese (1971).

The single-screen Mall Theatre showed its first feature in mid-1960. The cinema was housed within the mall and 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 via footbridge to the mall.

On September 16, 1973, a 1.2 million dollar renovation of the shopping center was completed. The mall had been enclosed and its interior spaces refurbished with 1970s Mod decor. An Early American-theme "Village Mall" area 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.

This 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 MALL (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 of sorts. 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 Columbus, Ohio-based Value City in November 1996. This store was shuttered in January 2006.

Stern's was rebranded by Macy's in May 2001 and closed in April 2005. The J.J. Newberry 5 & 10 was shuttered in early 1994. Its space opened, as a 2-level (46,700 square foot) Marshalls, in the fall of 1994. Adjacent store space was fashioned into a 2-level (32,000 square foot) Saks OFF Fifth outlet store, which opened in November 1996.

The 903,000 square foot retail center 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 of the complex. The old Ohrbach's / Steinbach / Value City was demolished. An extended West Wing was built, anchored by a 2-level (121,900 square foot) Target. The discount retailer opened for business March 7, 2009.

A 3-level (145,400 square foot) section of the Stern's / Macy's structure opened, as a New York City-based Century 21 discount apparel outlet, October 10, 2006. The Lower Level of the building housed a 1-floor (50,500 square foot) Filene's Basement. This store began business October 28, 2007 and closed in 2009. The area was sectioned into a (22,100 square foot) Bloomingdale's-The Outlet, which was dedicated August 27, 2010. A (28,400 square foot) HomeGoods opened its doors in October 2013. The bulk of  the building's Third Level was occupied by the (30,000 square foot) Lincoln Technical Institute.

The dedication of a 2-level (77,200 square foot) Whole Foods Market was held March 19, 2009. This was followed by the grand opening of a 1-level (36,400 square foot) Nordstrom Rack on March 21st. A 1-level (16,000 square foot) Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio opened November 19, 2010.

A ceremony marking the official opening of the revamped retail hub had taken place August 25, 2009. The name of the 917,100 square foot shopopolis was changed to OUTLETS AT BERGEN TOWN CENTER in mid-2010. The complex housed one hundred stores and services.

Several outparcel structures were built in the periphery of the mall. These included Lowe's (117,000 square feet), Ulta Beauty (12,200), Jared The Galleria of Jewelry (6,000 square feet), Bahama Breeze (9,400 square feet) and Olive Garden (9,000 square feet). 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 structure, 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 (4,300 square feet) served its first meals in October 2013. The remainder of the building was leased as Cups Frozen Yogurt.

In January 2015, the Vornado Realty Trust completed the spin-off of a new independent public company known as Urban Edge Retail Properties, with OUTLETS AT BERGEN TOWN CENTER being one of its holdings. In December 2015, an expansion of the complex was announced. The 130 million dollar project was to add a 200,000+ square foot third retail level to the existing structure. As of August 2016, no construction had begun.

Sources: / bergenmall / Site maintained by Jordan B.
Malls Of America blogsite / "Bergen Mall' thread Branch Store.doc
"Ohrbach's" article on Wikipedia
"Steinbach'" article on Wikipedia / "Remembering Playhouse On The Mall" (Cooper Carry Architecture)