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Voorhees Town Center
Voorhees Town Center

Voorhees Town Center (formerly Echelon Mall) is a regional shopping mall and residential area located in Voorhees Township, New Jersey, United States. It was built in 1970 and named after Echelon Airfield which was located where the mall stands today.[2] The Echelon Mall was renamed Voorhees Town Center in 2007.[3] Boscov's currently serves as the only anchor of the mall.

Property history

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

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. Housed in the same building as Exhilarama, was a General Cinema movie theater, which closed a few years later. The building was demolished and the land was used to provide parking for the mall.

Echelon was a popular mall up until around 2000, when the mall began to struggle, and by 2005, the vacancy rate was nearly 75%.[8] Echelon had several problems that contributed to its high vacancy rate, including overexpansion; the mall had 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. JCPenney left the mall shortly after Sears. There had been a gradual loss of national chains since. Most of the upper level is vacant, especially in the section near Macy's.

Numerous other malls are located nearby, 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 JCPenney, 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.

First redevelopment plans

After its proposal for a Walmart 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 was officially renamed as Voorhees Town Center. The groundbreaking ceremony on the redevelopment project was on January 30, 2007.[9] The former Sears and JCPenney buildings, and the mall corridor between Macy's and the former JCPenney were demolished.

In December 2007, work was completed on the mall portion of the town center. Condos and new office complexes were also built around the same time. 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.[10]

Future redevelopment

In October 2015, PREIT sold the Voorhees Town Center for $13.4 million to Namdar Realty Group after Macy's announced the closure of 36 unspecified stores.[11] However, when Macy's later released a statement announcing the stores to be closed, Voorhees Town Center was not mentioned.[12]

On January 4, 2017, it was announced that Macy's would be closing in spring 2017 as part of a plan to close 68 stores nationwide which left Boscov's as the only anchor left.[13]

Throughout 2017 and 2018, many national merchants left the struggling mall. At the time, the vacancy rate at the mall was 40 percent.

In March 2018, Voorhees Township officials moved forward with a plan that declared the mall a "redevelopment area" and would've condemned parts of the mall under eminent domain.[14] The plan called for the township acquiring most of the mall and the shuttered Macy's anchor store for redevelopment.

By June 2018, the town began accepting offers from potential redevelopers to prevent an eminent domain situation. Some of the proposed ideas included "adding microbreweries and making it more like an Xfinity Live-type atmosphere or like a Dave & Buster's."[15]

By September 2018, township officials had selected Brandywine Financial Services Corp. to "transform the largely vacant mall into a mixed-use center with housing and entertainment attractions."[16] Township officials indicated that some parts of the mall may be razed during the redevelopment.

By January 2019, plans began to solidify further, which "includes beer courts instead of food courts, laser tag, sports bars and outdoor movie nights when weather permits."[17] Also included in the plan are more town homes and apartments that could be built in and around the former Macy's.



Former Anchors

Macy's (Opened 2006, Closed 2017) formerly Stawbridge's (closed 2006)

JCPenney (Original Anchor) closed in 2003

Sears opened in 1998, closed 2001

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