OK hear me out, I am totally against an 11-story apartment building at the mall, but what I am not against is people living at the mall. While it may not be something I would ever do, I could totally see people wanting to live in a lifestyle center, the problem is - The Plymouth Meeting Mall is far from a lifestyle center.
The current PREIT plan reeks of a desperate attempt at getting rich quick. Instead of the quick and easy way out, PREIT should actually consider not just what they want (quick money to save a dying business) but what the community needs. Doing so could provide a path forward for PREIT well into the next generation. Their current plan offers the community nothing, except an additional strain on resources in the form of increased school district usage, increased traffic on the roads, and negative impacts on other local resources like our sewage system for example.
The Plymouth Meeting Mall could give Plymouth Township something it does not have, a Main Street, also known as a lifestyle center. What if the 68-acre property was completely transformed? What if PREIT proposed a plan to finish what they started in 2007 with the addition of outpost restaurants and buildings? What if the ring road within the mall became a Main Street for Plymouth Meeting with small retail, office space, shops, residential dwellings, medical facilities, public walking and biking trails, a dog park, and community gathering spaces nicely placed in a planned community? The aim should be to give people other reasons besides shopping to attend the property. The addition of these other non-retail amenities would also give the future residents other people to interact with. Take those kiosks that are in the middle of the mall and place them around a thriving outdoor community to help increase business.
PREIT could literally turn the mall inside out! Take the unoccupied space, shift some tenants around create small hip apartments with the unused space within the mall. Further, they could give all indoor tenants outside access all the way around the building. Every store would be accessible from the outside. They could then add additional stories to the existing mall building and achieve what they are looking for - residential space.
What if they created a semi-outdoor food court with local small breweries and restaurants surrounding it? What if they placed a parking garage behind WholeFoods and the Church on the Mall?
In a recent Township meeting, representatives from PREIT complained they are trying to offset outdated infrastructure and facilities inside the mall with skyrocketing costs all while dealing with the outdated mall concept. Here is an idea - tear sections of it down. Cut a road right through the mall. Divide it up into sections, heck - turn parts of it into a parking garage. People would flock to such a destination, it has already been proven by successful centers as we see in King of Prussia or the Premium Outlets in Limerick.
The proposal is currently being debated over several months in the Plymouth Township Zoning Board meetings. The next meeting is on January 18, 2021.
Be sure to read the entire series on this proposed project.
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