The Philadelphia Inquirer published an interview with Joseph F. Coradino, CEO of PREIT, on June 4th. While the article, titled “Facing almost $1 billion in debt, Philly mall owner PREIT emphasizes strong sales and high occupancy,” focuses on the overall business of malls, there is an interesting portion about the Plymouth Meeting Mall and its effort to add an apartment community to an outlying area of the property.
From the article:
At Plymouth Meeting — which has among the lowest occupancies of the core malls at 85.4% — Coradino said PREIT’s efforts to diversify into residential development have been stymied by local politics. The company wants to add 750 housing units to the site.
“Plymouth is the one where we’re banging our head against the wall,” Coradino said. “Plymouth has just been a bear. The township’s been unresponsive. What do the kids say? ‘We’ve been ghosted.’ ”
Further in the article, Coradino discusses how a similar apartment project in Virginia was received vs. how it was received in Plymouth Township. From the article:
“In Virginia, they welcome you with open arms … and it’s not that different in Prince George’s County,” Coradino said. “I live in Pennsylvania. I live in Montgomery County. That hasn’t helped. … It’s a very difficult environment to navigate.”
MoreThanTheCurve.com has extensively covered PREIT’s effort to bring apartments to the mall. In February 2020, Plymouth Township Council President Chris Manero released a statement in which he said PREIT was “bypassing our township council” by seeking a special exception from the township’s zoning hearing board to get its proposed apartment community approved.
Following this, there were 10 hearings over several months before the zoning hearing board. In September 2021, the zoning hearing board voted 5-0 to deny the special exception. PREIT appealed this decision and in December 2022 the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas upheld the zoning hearing board’s decision. The appeal is still active and is currently on the docket for the Commonwealth Court, the state’s second-highest court.
PREIT is not the only developer seeking to bring apartments to the Plymouth Meeting Mall. Keystone Development + Investment owns the vacant office building attached to the mall. In 2022, it sought and received a text amendment to allow apartments by conditional use to be developed within an existing building. It is currently seeking approval to convert its office building into apartments, however, the township’s planning agency voted in May 2022 to not recommend its plan. Keystone moved forward without the recommendation and the township’s council is now holding hearings to make the final determination.
During that same May 2023 meeting, the planning agency also declined to recommend a new plan from PREIT for a smaller apartment community.
The planning agency then voted to ask the township to work with all of the property owners at the Plymouth Meeting Mall to develop a unified plan to revitalize the mall.
Let us know what you think in the comments.