The Rise and Fall of Voorhees Town Center
Once a bustling hub for shopping and socializing, Voorhees Town Center Mall in Voorhees Township, New Jersey, has seen better days.
Originally named Echelon Mall, it was built in 1970 and quickly became a go-to spot for locals. During its peak years, the mall was lively, filled with shoppers, kids hanging out, and families enjoying a day out.
However, around the turn of the millennium, things began to change. Stores started closing, and foot traffic dwindled.
By 2005, the mall’s vacancy rate had skyrocketed to nearly 75%. It starkly contrasted the mall’s earlier years, when it was a cornerstone of community life.
The decline wasn’t sudden but rather a gradual process. Over the years, the mall lost its luster, and the once-busy corridors became eerily quiet. Once filled with the aroma of fast food and the chatter of people, the food court became a ghost town.
Many factors contributed to this decline, including competition from other shopping centers and changes in consumer behavior.
Online shopping became more popular, and people preferred big-box stores over traditional malls. The mall’s outdated design didn’t help either; it simply couldn’t keep up with the times.
So, what happened to this once-vibrant place? Well, it isn’t straightforward. The mall has undergone multiple ownership changes, each with its vision for revitalization. Yet, none have been able to bring the mall back to life fully.
Today, Voorhees Town Center is a shadow of its former self. But it’s not all doom and gloom; some businesses are still holding on, and the mall has taken on a new role in the community, albeit a diminished one.
The Historical Roots of Voorhees Town Center
Before it became a mall, the land where Voorhees Town Center stands was an airfield. That’s right, planes used to take off and land right where you now shop for shoes and grab a coffee. The transition from an airfield to a mall began with a groundbreaking ceremony 1969.
The original vision for the mall was grand. It was supposed to be part of a larger planned community named “Echelon.”
The idea was to create a self-contained neighborhood where people could live, work, and shop without leaving the area. It was an ambitious plan, and it seemed like it would work for a while.
However, the dream of Echelon never fully materialized. While the mall did become a focal point for the community, the larger plan fell by the wayside. Over the years, the mall underwent several renovations, but the original vision was lost.
The mall’s history combines ambition, change, and decline. It’s a story that reflects broader trends in American retail and urban planning.
Yet, despite its challenges, the mall has remained a part of the community’s fabric, even if it’s not the bustling hub it once was.
The Struggle to Keep Up with Competing Malls
Competition is tough in retail, and Voorhees Town Center has felt the heat. Nearby malls like Cherry Hill Mall and Deptford Mall have given it a run for its money.
These malls have modern designs popular stores, and are located near major highways, making them more accessible.
The Promenade at Sagemore, another competitor, took things to another level. With its upscale stores and outdoor setting, it became a favorite among shoppers looking for a more luxurious experience.
On the other hand, Voorhees Town Center is located away from major thoroughfares, making it less convenient for shoppers from other areas.
The mall has tried to adapt and evolve, but it’s been a tough battle. Renovations were made, and new stores were brought in, but nothing seemed to stick. The competition was too intense, and the mall’s outdated design didn’t help its case.
It’s not just about the stores but the entire shopping experience. People want more than things to do in Voorhees Township, New Jersey; they want a place that offers entertainment, dining, and a sense of community. Unfortunately, Voorhees Town Center has struggled to provide this.
The Tenants of Voorhees Town Center Today
Fast forward to 2023, and the tenant list at Voorhees Town Center differs from what you’d expect in a traditional mall.
Sure, you’ll find some familiar names like Boscov’s and Bath & Body Works, but there’s also a mix of specialized services and organizations.
For instance, the Alicia Rose Victorious Foundation and the Center For The Healing Arts will be found. There’s also a variety of local businesses, such as Eephee’s Kitchen that add a unique flavor to the mall. It’s not your typical shopping destination, but it’s something.
One of the most unusual aspects is the presence of municipal offices. Yes, you read that right. Voorhees Town Hall is located inside the mall.
The mall also hosts a variety of non-retail tenants like Ironhand Boxing and Fitness and Drama Kids International. These businesses offer services you wouldn’t typically find in a mall, highlighting its transformation.
The tenant mix may be unconventional, but it shows the mall’s resilience. It’s a place trying to adapt to the times, even if it’s not the shopping mecca it once was.
Failed Redevelopment Plans and the Future
Over the years, there have been several attempts to revitalize Voorhees Town Center. One such plan involved bringing in Walmart as an anchor tenant. However, the proposal was met with resistance and was eventually rejected.
2015, the mall was sold to Namdar Realty Group, sparking hopes for a turnaround. Yet, despite new ownership, the mall continued to struggle. Adding to its woes, Macy’s, one of its anchor stores, closed its doors in 2017.
The township has even declared the mall a “redevelopment area,” opening the door for potential revitalization projects. While specific plans are still under wraps, it’s a step toward breathing new life into the mall.
The future of Voorhees Town Center is uncertain, but it’s not without hope. Some businesses still see its potential, and the community wants it to succeed. It may never return to its glory days, but it could become something new, something different.
As of now, the mall is in a state of flux. It’s not the bustling center it once was, but it’s also not wholly abandoned. It’s somewhere in between, searching for its new identity.
So, what’s next for Voorhees Town Center? It’s hard to say. But one thing is sure: it’s a place that’s seen a lot, been through a lot, and still has a story to tell.
The Community’s Perspective on Voorhees Town Center
Ask anyone who’s lived in Voorhees Township for a while, and they’ll have a story to tell about the mall. For some, it’s a place where they got their first job. For others, it’s where they’d hang out with friends after school. Despite its decline, the mall holds a special place in the hearts of many locals.
There’s a sense of nostalgia when people talk about the mall. They remember the good times, the busy weekends, and the importance of community it once offered. But they also acknowledge its current state and desire something better.
Community forums and social media are filled with discussions about the mall’s future.
Some suggest turning it into a community center, while others propose more radical ideas like tearing it down and starting from scratch. Whatever the opinion, it’s clear that people care about what happens to this space.
Local businesses also have a stake in the mall’s future. For them, it’s not just a building; it’s a place that could drive traffic to their stores and contribute to their success. They’re rooting for the mall, hoping the new developments could turn things around.
It’s not just about the mall but about what it represents. It’s part of the community’s history, culture, and identity. And while it may be struggling, there’s a collective hope that it can find a new purpose.
The story of Voorhees Town Center is complex, filled with ups and downs, hopes and disappointments. It’s a place that has seen better days but is not yet ready to be counted out.
Despite the challenges, there’s a sense of resilience, a belief that it can still serve a purpose.
The mall’s journey is far from over. Some businesses still call it home, and a community wants to see it succeed. It may be a long road ahead, but there’s a willingness to walk it.
As Voorhees Town Center stands today, it serves as a reminder of both the past and the potential for the future. It’s a place searching for its new identity, caught between what it was and what it could be.
So, the next time you wonder what to do on a weekend, consider taking a trip down memory lane and visiting Voorhees Town Center. Who knows, you might find it’s starting to write a new chapter in its long and storied history.