Burlington Center Mall: New Hopes for an Old Gem
The Burlington Center Mall once stood as a bustling hub for shoppers, families, and community events near Burlington, New Jersey. Its grand opening in 1982 was a momentous occasion, marking a new era of retail and social gatherings in the township.
Over the years, the mall became more than just a place to shop; it was a cornerstone of the community, hosting holiday events, providing a space for social interactions, and even influencing the development of the surrounding area. However, the mall’s closure in 2018 left a void in the community, a silent space where laughter and footsteps once echoed.
But as with all things, change is inevitable. New developments are underway, promising to transform this once-vibrant space into a modern, multi-purpose facility. So, let’s delve into the fascinating history and future of this iconic Burlington Township landmark.
The Grand Opening and Early Success
August 1982 marked a significant milestone for Burlington Township. Developed by The Rouse Company, the Burlington Center Mall opened its doors with much fanfare. Strawbridge’s and Sears served as the anchor stores, drawing crowds from near and far.
The mall wasn’t just a shopping center but a catalyst for growth. The mall’s arrival transformed the area along County Route 541, a formerly rural corridor. Residential and commercial developments soon followed, changing the landscape of both Burlington Township and neighboring Mount Holly Township.
At its inception, the mall was more than a collection of stores. It was a community gathering place, offering a variety of smaller shops and dining options in addition to its anchor stores. The mall quickly became a destination for families, friends, and tourists.
The early years were golden for the Burlington Center Mall. Holiday seasons were particularly festive, with decorations adorning the hallways and seasonal events attracting locals. It was a time of prosperity and community engagement that many remember fondly.
Expansions and Acquisitions
By the mid-’90s, the mall was ready for expansion. In August 1996, a 103,000-square-foot JCPenney store was added, joining Strawbridge’s and Sears stores. This expansion brought the mall to new heights, offering even more variety to shoppers.
Ownership changed hands in November 1999 when Jager Management acquired the mall for $10.5 million. This transition ushered in a new era, with the management keen on maintaining the mall’s status as a shopping haven.
In 2006, another significant change occurred. Strawbridge’s was converted into a Macy’s store, giving the mall a fresh appeal. This change was more than a simple rebranding; it was a strategic move to attract a broader range of shoppers.
Throughout these years, the mall underwent several renovations and welcomed new stores. It was a period of change that seemed to promise continued success. The mall had three anchor stores and approximately 100 smaller stores and restaurants at its peak, making it a bustling hub of activity.
The Decline Begins
The first signs of trouble appeared in January 2010 when Macy’s announced its closure by March of the same year. This left the mall with just two anchor stores: JCPenney and Sears. The absence of Macy’s was a significant blow, affecting foot traffic and overall vibrancy.
In June 2012, another pivotal moment occurred. The mall was auctioned off to Moonbeam Equities for a mere $4.4 million. Despite the new ownership, the mall’s fortunes didn’t improve. Vacancy rates began to climb, and national chain stores started to pull out.
By 2014, JCPenney had also closed its doors, part of a nationwide strategy that saw the closure of 33 locations. The mall had only Sears as its anchor, a precarious position for any shopping center. The decline was evident, and the once-bustling mall started showing wear and tear.
Redevelopment plans were announced in 2014, aiming to revitalize the struggling mall. These plans included demolishing the former Macy’s and JCPenney stores to make way for an outdoor shopping area. However, these plans were delayed due to lease renegotiations with Sears, further stalling any potential revival.
Burlington Center Mall: Former anchors
|Macy’s (originally Strawbridge & Clothier)
The Final Closure and Demolition
By January 2018, the mall had reached a critical point. A burst water pipe led to its voluntary closure, dashing any lingering hopes of revitalization. Later that year, Sears closed its doors, leaving the mall tenantless.
The property lay vacant for several years, a shadow of its former self. Weeds overtook the parking lot, and the food court, once a hub of activity, was now deserted. It was a sad sight, a stark contrast to the mall’s earlier years.
In 2019, Clarion Partners LLC acquired the property for $22 million and announced plans for industrial development. This marked the end of the mall as residents knew it, but it also signaled the beginning of something new.
Demolition began in early 2021, erasing the physical structure but not the memories held by the community. The mall had been a significant part of Burlington Township for nearly four decades, and its demolition was met with sadness and anticipation for what would come next.
The Rebirth of the Site
In February 2019, a bronze elephant named Petal, a fixture in the mall, found a new home at the Burlington Riverwalk since its opening. This move was symbolic, a nod to the mall’s past as the community looked toward the future.
Clarion Partners didn’t just demolish the old mall; they had plans for its future. 2019, a new proposal was introduced, including retail, restaurants, housing, and warehouses. Construction on a warehouse began in 2022, following the mall’s demolition the previous year.
Fast forward to 2023, and the site is buzzing with activity again. Now known as The Shops at the Crossings, this new development by Ferber Co. promises to include three industrial buildings totaling 1.9 million square feet and 30 acres of retail space.
The first retailers are expected to open their doors by the end of this year. While it won’t be the same as the old Burlington Center Mall, it’s a fresh start. The community hopes that The Shops at the Crossings will become a new gathering place that honors the past while looking forward to the future.
Burlington Center Mall: A Tale of Community, Commerce, and Change
The Burlington Center Mall has had a journey as varied as the people who walked its halls. From its early days of prosperity to its decline and eventual demolition, the mall has been a significant part of Burlington Township’s history. Its transformation into The Shops at the Crossings is the latest chapter in this ongoing story.
As residents await the opening of new stores, a sense of anticipation is mixed with nostalgia. The mall may be gone, but its spirit lives on, both in the memories of those who frequented it and in the promise of what’s to come.
The new development aims to capture the essence of community that the original mall once held while adapting to the needs and desires of a 21st-century audience. It’s a delicate balance that the community watches with hopeful eyes.
As we look forward to the end of 2023, when the first retailers are expected to open their doors at The Shops at the Crossings, we can’t help but feel a sense of excitement. This isn’t just a story of a mall; it’s the story of a community, its struggles, and its resilience. And as this new chapter unfolds, Burlington, New Jersey‘s residents are ready to embrace whatever comes next.
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