Mall face-lift plans get good re­views

Su­per­vi­sors hear plans for Coventry Mall

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Eric Devlin ede­vlin@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Eric_Devlin on Twit­ter

NORTH COVENTRY >> Coventry Mall de­vel­op­ers came be­fore the North Coventry Board of Su­per­vi­sors Tues­day night to dis­cuss ideas for the build­ing’s face-lift.

Of­fi­cials from Pen­n­mark Man­age­ment Co. of Ply­mouth Meet­ing pre­sented a plan call­ing for the in­stal­la­tion of a new en­trance to the 49-year-old mall and a new de­part­ment store, which would cre­ate the build­ing’s fourth an­chor.

The new de­part­ment store, ac­cord­ing to illustrations pre­sented at Tues­day’s pub­lic meet­ing ob­tained by Dig­i­tal First Me­dia, show a Gabe’s de­part­ment store will open where the Sears de­part­ment store once stood. It’s un­clear what other re­tail­ers will open be­tween Gabe’s and the TGI Fri­days restau­rant.

Gabe’s would rent half of the 120,000-square-foot Sears store space but there would not be a di­rect con­nec­tion to the mall from the store, ac­cord­ing to Town­ship Man­ager Kevin Hen­nessey. In­stead, part of that store would be

de­mol­ished to cre­ate a new out­side en­trance that cre­ates a more vis­ually ap­peal­ing aes­thetic.

“What they’re look­ing to do is just re­con­fig­ure that area slightly — put in a court­yard with a foun­tain, make the en­trance ap­peal­ing,” he said. “And also re­verse some of the stores be­tween the Sears and TGI Fri­days. To­day it’s a stark wall with metal back doors to en­ter the fa­cil­i­ties. There would be win­dows, canopies and an en­trance from the court­yard.”

Pen­n­mark of­fi­cials gave the pre­sen­ta­tion in or­der to sched­ule a meet­ing with town­ship staff so that both sides can re­view the spe­cific plans to­gether. The goal is to de­ter­mine how much work can be done on the mall by ob­tain­ing build­ing and de­mo­li­tion per­mits and what may re­quire go­ing through the land de­vel­op­ment process.

“It’s al­ways help­ful when you can sit down and dis­cuss some­thing on both sides and get feed­back from both sides as to how to pro­ceed,” Hen­nessey said. “We’re try­ing to ex­pe­dite the process for them but they cer­tainly still have to dot their i’s and cross their t’s.”

The con­sen­sus from the board was very fa­vor­able, he added.

“We’re very glad they are as in­ter­ested in try­ing to re­vi­tal­ize the mall as they are,” Hen­nessey said. “The mall has been a main com­mer­cial area for the town­ship for years. It has come on some harder times with new de­vel­op­ments in the area but we do think it can be a very vi­able shop­ping area in the fu­ture.”

Pen­n­mark pur­chased the mall in April to breathe some life into the build­ing, which in re­cent years has ex­pe­ri­enced a loss of re­tail­ers and shop­pers.

Pen­n­mark CEO Don­ald Cafiero said pre­vi­ously the com­pany’s pri­mary goal was to in­crease the num­ber of peo­ple who come to Coventry Mall and to fill va­can­cies with re­tail­ers, restau­rants and other busi­nesses that fit the mall and the needs of the com­mu­nity.

Pen­n­mark pur­chased the mall from U.S. Bank Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion, which had ac­quired the prop­erty at auc­tion in 2013 for $49.5 mil­lion.

“When you have a prop­erty that has gone through a bank­ruptcy it starts a neg­a­tive se­ries of events. We’re here to stop the neg­a­tive and start the turn­around process,” he said.

Dig­i­tal First Me­dia staff writer Donna Rovins con­trib­uted to this re­port.

An il­lus­tra­tion from Tues­day night’s pre­sen­ta­tion to the North Coventry Board of Su­per­vi­sors show­ing a re­vamped en­trance to the Coventry Mall.

Part of the pre­sen­ta­tion made Tues­day night to the North Coventry Board of Su­per­vi­sors shows a num­ber of new stores, in­clud­ing a Gabe’s where the Sears used to be lo­cated.

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