Evolution of Westgate Mall in Bethlehem, PA: From Beginnings to Today’s Redevelopment

A Brief Overview of Westgate Mall

Westgate Mall, a shopping center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has been a local community staple since its opening in 1973. With over 270,000 square feet of retail floor, the mall has provided various shopping and entertainment options for residents and visitors alike.

Currently anchored by Harbor Freight Tools, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Sky Zone Trampoline Park, and Weis Markets, Westgate Mall has been the site of numerous events, milestones, and changes.

The Early Years: 1964-1973

The mall’s story began in 1964 when Harold Campbell constructed the first buildings on the property. In 1967, George’s IGA Foodliner opened its doors, followed by the construction of a Hess’s department store in 1971.

Two years later, Westgate Mall officially opened, offering the community a new destination for shopping and leisure.

A Devastating Fire and Its Aftermath

Unfortunately, disaster struck in 1977 when a three-alarm fire broke out at the mall, causing the loss of 18 stores and injuries to several firefighters. The fire was eventually contained due to a firewall and was ruled as arson. However, no suspect was ever found. The damage to the mall totaled a staggering over $2,850,000.

In the years that followed, the mall underwent various changes:

  • George’s IGA was sold to King’s IGA in 1992, which planned to make upgrades.
  • Hess’s interior was redesigned in 1993, and The Bon-Ton purchased the store in 1994.

Between 1999 and 2005, a legal dispute arose over the land that housed The Bon-Ton, which eventually sold to PREIT for $500,000. Newberry’s transitioned to a Dollar Zone before closing in April 2002.

In June 2002, Harold Campbell’s family attempted to regain control of the mall, resulting in legal action by the two managers who had power of attorney over the property since 1997. The issue was settled later that year, with the managers retaining control.

The Market at Westgate and New Ownership

Starting in November 2011, The Market at Westgate farmers market began operating at the mall on Wednesdays. In June 2013, City View Capital LLC acquired a majority of the mall for $2.3 million. Later, in December 2014, the property where The Bon-Ton was located was sold to a subsidiary of the mall’s owners for $3.85 million.

In mid-2015, the owners announced a $5 million renovation plan, including a new facade for the mall. Sky Zone Trampoline Park was also announced as a future addition in August 2015.

Recent Developments: 2018 to Present

As the years went on, more changes took place at Westgate Mall:

  • The Bon-Ton chain liquidated in April 2018, with the Westgate location closing during the summer.
  • Jack Williams Tire secured a sublease from The Bon-Ton.
  • Onyx Equities LLC and PCCP LLC bought the mall for $30 million in October 2018.
  • In May 2021, Weis Markets relocated to a portion of the previous Bon-Ton area.
  • Lehigh Valley Health Network leased a part of the former Bon-Ton space for storing equipment in December 2021.
  • Harbor Freight Tools opened in 2022, occupying part of the former Weis Markets space.

In March 2022, redevelopment plans were announced for Westgate Mall, calling for demolishing over 50,000 square feet of interior space and constructing new buildings, along with facade changes.

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On February 9, 2023, the remaining tenants inside the mall, including Amateur Athlete, Fashion Nails, Hawk Music, Subway, and Westgate Jewelers & Repairs, were informed to vacate the premises by around March-April.

The mall’s interior would permanently close for redevelopment. Onyx Equities, the mall owner, planned to raze about 50,000 square feet of the shopping center’s interior to construct approximately 8,000 square feet of new retail structures.

As the community bids farewell to the mall’s interior, it’s impossible not to feel a sense of nostalgia for the memories created within its walls.

Over the years, Westgate Mall has been a central part of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and its redevelopment marks the beginning of a new chapter in its history. With a focus on revitalizing the space and attracting new businesses, the mall is set to continue serving the community for years to come.

Westgate Mall Timeline

Year Event
1964 First buildings constructed by Harold Campbell
1967 George’s IGA Foodliner opens
1971 Hess’s department store built
1973 Westgate Mall officially opens
1977 Three-alarm fire damages mall
1992 George’s IGA sold to King’s IGA
1993 Hess’s interior redesigned
1994 The Bon-Ton purchased Hess’s store
2002 Newberry’s closes
2011 The Market at Westgate farmers market opens
2013 City View Capital LLC purchases mall
2015 $5 million renovation plan announced
2018 The Bon-Ton chain liquidates
2021 Weis Markets moves into former Bon-Ton space
2022 Harbor Freight Tools opens
2023 Remaining tenants informed of interior closure for redevelopment
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