Voorhees Town Center

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Voorhees Town Center
Voorheestownsign.JPG
Voorhees Town Center signage
Location Voorhees Township, New Jersey, USA
Opening date 1970[1]
Owner Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust
No. of anchor tenants 4
Total retail floor area 664,380 square feet (61,723 m2)[1]
No. of floors 2
Parking Lighted lot
Website www.voorheestowncenter.com

Voorhees Town Center (formerly Echelon Mall) is a regional shopping mall and a future residential area located in Voorhees Township, New Jersey, United States. It was built in 1970, and was named after an airfield called Echelon Airfield, that used to be where the mall stands today.Coordinates: 39°51′00″N 75°00′08″W / 39.8500°N 75.0023°W / 39.8500; -75.0023[2] The Echelon Mall war renamed as the Mall at the Voorhees Town Center in 2007.[3]

Property history[edit]

The site on which the Echelon Mall was built began as an airfield: nearly 200 acres (0.81 km2) of farmland bought by flying enthusiasts Rogers and Jeannette Smith in 1939. The Echelon Airfield was incorporated in 1944 and went on to house 20 planes. The development included three grass runways, a gift shop, a small café and hangar capable of housing six planes. The airfield was mostly used for recreational flying, flying lessons, and a take-off point for crop dusters and chartered flights.

Rogers Smith died in a flying accident in 1950, and his wife leased the airfield to Hugh and Kay Hamill, who ran the airfield until Mrs. Smith sold the property in 1962. The new owners renamed the field Delaware Valley Airpark, and ran it for three more years. In 1969, groundbreaking occurred to construct the Echelon Mall. Developed by The Rouse Company, the mall opened in 1970.[4][5]

Echelon Mall[edit]

Until redevelopment began in January 2007, the Echelon Mall had a gross leasable area of 1,127,308 square feet (104,730 m²).[6][7] This made it the second largest mall in southern New Jersey after the Cherry Hill Mall. Echelon was developed in 1970 as the center of a residential and commercial center in Voorhees. In October 1992, the Echelon Mall opened a family entertainment center called Exhilarama, which was owned and operated by Edison Brothers Stores. Exhilarama was a popular indoor amusement center throughout the mid-1990s until it closed in 1996. According to Andy Halliday, the president of Edison Brothers Mall Entertainment (EBME) division, Exhilarama was the first of a new generation of family entertainment anchor centers in shopping malls.[8] In the same building next to Exhilarama, was a General Cinema movie theater, which also closed a few years later. The building was demolished to make additional parking for the mall.

Old Echelon Mall signage along Somerdale Road

Decline[edit]

Echelon was a very popular mall up until around 2000, when the mall began to struggle to the point where some were preparing to render it a dead mall, even though the surrounding area was (and still is) not considered to be in decline. By 2005, the vacancy rate was nearly 75%.[9] Echelon had several problems contributing to its high vacancy rate, including its overexpansion with four anchors. Sears, which was built in 1998, closed just three years later. Also, the rest of the mall did not receive a much needed renovation to stay competitive and attractive. J.C. Penney left the mall shortly after Sears. There had been a gradual loss of national chains since.

In addition, there are numerous other malls close by in South Jersey, including Cherry Hill Mall and moderately-sized malls in Moorestown and Deptford. While Echelon competed with these centers for years, the advent of newer centers such as The Promenade at Sagemore in Marlton, and significant renovation of the Deptford Mall, with the addition of a J.C. Penney, have provided more attractive shopping alternatives in the area. Also, whereas most United States shopping malls are located near an Interstate highway or at least a principal thoroughfare, Echelon is relatively difficult to get to, located at the somewhat obscure intersection of Somerdale and Burnt Mill Roads in Voorhees.

Redevelopment plans[edit]

Macy's entrance

After its proposal for a Wal-Mart store was rejected by residents, PREIT submitted plans to demolish the abandoned anchor stores and adjacent mall space to make way for a mixed-use "town center" featuring a 65,000-square-foot (6,000 m2) supermarket and 130,000 square feet (12,000 m2) of retail stores along a landscaped boulevard. PREIT renovated the downsized mall to house 253,000 square feet (23,500 m2) of small specialty shops along with anchor stores Macy's and Boscov's.

The mall has been officially renamed as Voorhees Town Center. The groundbreaking ceremony on the new project was on January 30, 2007.[10] The former Sears and JCPenney buildings, and the mall corridor between Macy's and the former JCPenney had been demolished.

As of December 2007, work has been completed on the mall portion of the town center. Condos and new office complexes have been built.

In May 2011, the Voorhees Township municipal offices relocated to the town center. According to PREIT, the Voorhees Town Center is only the third mall in the United States to be anchored by municipal offices.[11]

Anchors[edit]

Former anchors[edit]

  • Sears (built and opened in 1998, closed 2001, demolished 2007)
  • JCPenney (closed December 2003, demolished 2007)

References[edit]

External links[edit]