PHILADEPHIA (CBS) — Full of empty stores, and struggling to stay afloat, many American shopping malls have fallen victim to changing times. Now, one local town is taking a tough line when it comes to its dying mall.
Call it half-empty or half-full, only about 50 percent of the stores are occupied these days at the Town Center Mall in Voorhees.
“It’s sad,” says Sharon Delfino of Voorhees. “Long ago it used to be bigger, it used to have a lot more stores, lot more activity.”
Local SWAT teams doing training at the Macy’s which closed last year only emphasizes the point that officials in Voorhees Township are desperate to keep the building in use.
Mario DiNatale, Voorhees Township’s Director of Economic Development, explains, “Our mayor calls this the heartbeat of Voorhees, right now we’re on cardiac arrest over here ”
He says it’s his understanding the current owner of the mall Namdar doesn’t want to make improvements and might be angling to let the former Echelon Mall fail so it could be razed for apartments.
“They strangle the malls until they are completely vacant,” says DiNatale.
Township officials say they want the malls owners to do what’s right and revamp the place, but if they won’t, they are ready to play hardball. They could add taxes that could pay for improvements or they could use condemnation and take the mall away.
“We’re not playing around here anymore, or we’ll find another developer and if you don’t deal with them in good faith: we’ll take it from you and sell it to them,” DiNatale summarizes.
Last week the township planning board accepted a redevelopment plan that gives condemnation powers.
Next, it goes before the full township committee to become law.
Then they’ll see what Namdar, whose property manager did not return our call, does once the pressure is on.