Concrete Plan Emerges for Gallery Renovation

Hopes for a renewed Gallery have been around for much longer than Naked Philly has been writing about them. We've repeatedly covered possible movement at the mall over the years, most recently last summer when we wondered whether a renovation was close after a story came out that shopping-center company Macerich was partnering with Gallery owners PREIT, and had pledged almost $107M toward fixing up the place. Today, the Inquirer had a story featuring specific details of the plans to renovate the Gallery into… the Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia.

View of the entrance to the Gallery

Rendering of the Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia (Image from the Inquirer)

The plan will involve, as you can see in the image above, the opening up of the mall to Market Street. Today, as you are probably aware, it's a blank wall. Also, it will mean the renovation of the entrance on 9th & Market which today is a descent underground with a sign that looks like it's been there since the mall opened in 1977. It will also entail a total renovation of the interior and a collection of new stores. According to the article, outlets from Gucci, Prada, and Burberry may be among the tenants, though no leases have been signed. A project in Chicago that this one seems to be modeled after has a Bloomingdale's outlet, a Neiman Marcus Last Call, Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th, Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Banana Republic, J.Crew, and Under Armour, among many others. Once the project gets the necessary approvals, construction is expected to take about two years.

Interior view (Image from the Inquirer)

View of the 9th Street underpass (Image from the Inquirer)

What we didn't know until now is that the City will be contributing $113M to this project, including 20 years of tax payments going toward the renovation and $58M in capital improvement and easement maintenence expenses over 45 years. The State is kicking in another $35.5M. This is coming into play, we'd guess, both because the Redevelopment Authority owns the land on which the mall sits and because the site represents an important bridge between the Convention Center area and the historic sites on Independence Mall. Still, this seems like a staggering amount of public money for this development.

On the other hand, the City and State put up $229M for the construction of Citizens Bank Park and $256M to building Lincoln Financial Field. One could argue that the Gallery Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia will provide far more jobs than any stadium. Then again, the mall will never throw a parade down Broad Street.

Will this revived building breathe new life into Market East? Or does a shopping mall have no place in a downtown area? Will the mix of stores work at this location? Or would you have preferred something different? Does it seem like too much public money? Or is it an appropriate use of taxpayer funds? What do you think?