What you’ll see when Fashion District Philadelphia launches this week in Center City

PREIT’s revamp of the Gallery mall is all about “retail-tainment” and local love.

Ready or not, Fashion District Philadelphia is launching on Sept. 19

Ready or not, Fashion District Philadelphia is launching on Sept. 19

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY
layla

Updated Sept. 18

Center City enters a new era with the official opening of Fashion District Philadelphia on Thursday. The long-anticipated replacement for The Gallery at Market East is not your parents’ mall.

In developer PREIT’s eyes, Fashion District is nothing less than an international attraction.

“This really is the last piece, if you will, of Philadelphia being a world class city,” said PREIT CEO Joseph Coradino during a preview tour on Tuesday.

The Gallery may have been a popular hangout for families and teens, but it was full of value chains and snack shops — and not a whole lot else.

Fashion District has flipped the script.

Instead of bargain brands like Payhalf and Rainbow, the structure that stretches along and below Market between 8th and 10th streets now boasts mainstream discount shops like American Eagle Outfitters, Eddie Bauer and Francesca’s. And there’s more to do than just hand over cash for goods. The modern mall is all about experiences.

PREIT has wisdom on this front. As some suburban incarnations continue down the road toward extinction, PREIT has outfitted its Plymouth Meeting Mall with what it calls “retail-tainment.” (Think Legoland, a Whole Foods and a Dave & Busters.)

With its multiple performance venues, focus on local artists and space for influencer-friendly pop-ups, consider Fashion District Philadelphia a pioneer in Retail-tainment 2.0™.

Though several of the stores and entertainment venues won’t be open when the mall launches on Thursday, here’s a guide to what you need to know about Center City’s new shopping center.


MORE:


fashiondistrict-kimpaynter13
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Getting around

Did you know the old Gallery mall had just three entrances and exits? The four-level Fashion District Philadelphia has almost two dozen ways to get in and out, according to PREIT marketing director Erika Joy Erb.

The main entrance is at 901 Market St. There’s also doors along Filbert Street, Market Street and on 10th Street and 9th Street. A separate entrance to City Winery is near 10th and Filbert, and REC Philly, a co-working space for artists and creators, has its own opening on 9th Street.

SEPTA’s Regional Rail hub, now known as Jefferson Station, is again accessible from inside the mall, flanked by Tiffany’s Bakery.

fashiondistrict-laylajones03
Lalya A. Jones / Billy PEnn

Philly made

Yes! Tiffany’s Bakery is still standing. The family-owned sweets shop is the only original tenant in the space from the 1970s, Erb said. Make sure you grab their specialty carrot cake.

Tiffany’s is joined by several other businesses in a that make it obvious that PREIT is striving to maintain a very local connection. Four Philadelphia retailers are on the concourse level near Jefferson Station: Dolly’s Boutique & Consignment, a Germantown-based women’s apparel shop, South Fellini, American Hats LLC and The Sable Collective, an artisanal accessories and wares shop created for Black women.

Rev. Georgiette Morgan-Thomas, owner and designer of American Hats LLC, was putting the finishing touches on her mostly set-up space between South Fellini, a Philadelphia apparel brand that recently found and restored the mannequin from the 80s romantic comedy Mannequin. It’ll be there, will you?

There’s also Wills Eye Wear, the retail branch for the optometry business connected to Wills Eye Hospital, and Chickie’s & Pete’s, Big Gay Ice Cream and Philly Pretzel Factory hold it down for local eats.

The cohort, known as “Uniquely Philly,” is a collaboration with The Enterprise Center, a West Philadelphia-based business incubator.

fashiondistrict-kimpaynter17
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Local art

Conrad Benner, the art curator and photographer behind Philly-based blog Streets Dept. was approached by the Erb out of the blue because he looked like he knew about art, the pair said during Tuesday’s tour.

Fast forward to launch, and Benner has brought 10 local artists into the Fashion District to create murals for the space. Benner was joined on Thursday by four of those artists: Nicole Nikolich, a crochet artist; A’Driane Nieves, an abstract artist; Quin Rodriquez; a spoken word poet in Philly; and Symone Salib, a muralist.

fashiondistrict-laylajones01
Lalya A. Jones / Billy PEnn

Interactive art

Coming in December is a permanent installation of Wonderspaces, the first permanent installation of the Santa Monica-based art experience in any metropolitan area, ever. It’s an interactive art exhibition that will allow people to experience the art in a way Erb simply could not put into words. “You have to see it,” she said.

fashiondistrict-kimpaynter06
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Lots more art

Beyond the Streets Dept Walls, PREIT spent $1 million on commissioned art projects, including a hanging sculpture by artist Michael Murphy. The morphing structure greets visitors coming into the main entrance as the Liberty Bell, but appears to shoppers on the mall’s west side as a sculpture of William Penn.

Main entrance visitors are welcomed by a sprawling, rainbow-colored art installation called “Goniochome” that adorns the walls both left and right of the doors.

fashiondistrict-kimpaynter03
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Live music and winemaking

City Winery is not just a restaurant and winery, but also an intimate concert venue whose other locations have hosted the likes of Lalah Hathaway.

Thousands of gallons of wine will be made on-site in the mall out of grapes shipped mostly from California, said GM Michael Chrupcala. The venue has an enclosed dining room plus a tasting bar outside of the restaurant space where shoppers can make an easy pit stop. It also has two music stages, the largest of which faces an audience of up to 300 people.

Chrupcala said the location will host around 500 concerts a year, and the already full lineup will kick-off with Emmylou Harris on Friday, Sept. 27. The first City Winery Philadelphia event, though, is an Eagles watch party at “The Loft” on Thursday, Sept. 26.

fashiondistrict-kimpaynter04
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Movies and rides

Fashion District Philadelphia brings the first blockbuster movie theater to Center City since the Sameric Theatre (aka the Boyd) shut down in 2002. The AMC Theatres auditoriums will have eight screens and seats that move with the action of the feature. Hold on to your seat, literally.

fashiondistrict-kimpaynter01
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Round1 is like an indoor amusement park for adults, with a kids zone, too. It’ll have bowling, arcade games, billiards, karaoke, ping pong and darts. Both AMC and Round1 will open in November.

A foam marshmallow pit is one of the most popular attractions at the temporary Candytopia exhibit. Adults and kids can walk through a sugary, immersive art zone that is very 1970s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory meets 21st Century NYC Color Factory.

fashiondistrict-kimpaynter14
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Frugal fashion

Aeropostale is one of those locations that’s set to open after the mall’s initial launch date. When it does, shoppers can head there for branded t-shirts under $10 and buy one get one free deals.

The artist formerly known as Coat Factory, Burlington never really closed during the Gallery remodel. The bargain department store with markdowns on brands like Jones New York and BeBe remains.

Now, this might be something to rejoice about. No longer will downtown shoppers have to trek to two H&M locations to maybe find what they’re looking for. H&M has a three-story flagship store in the Fashion District.

Torrid is a specialty fashion store that aims to offer trendy, affordable clothing for women who wear size 10 through size 30.

There were reports that Forever 21 was preparing for a bankruptcy reorganization, but the company denies it. Helping its argument: the low-cost clothing store is set to open a new location inside the Fashion District.

fashiondistrict-kimpaynter16
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Higher-end, lower prices

Remember when all fashion-loving Philadelphians shivered thinking about the possibility that this would be a place filled with luxury stores catering to a demographic that wouldn’t have dared step a foot in The Gallery? Well, that’s not quite the case. There are no Coach, Burberry, Marc Jacobs or Rag & Bones.

But there are some factory outlets that’ll sell designer clothing and wares at discounted prices. One of those is Century 21, a New York-based off-price retailer which actually opened just before the Gallery closed for renovation. If you haven’t been yet, head there to find brands like Free People, Dickies and Bottega Venetta. It’s basically like half JCPenney, half Barney’s.

Armani Exchange is opening at some point after the mall’s Sept. 19 date. The street-style brand cheaper than its parent brand, the Giorgio Armani house. GUESS Factory is another retailer offering mid-priced designer clothes and accessories at a discount.

fashiondistrict-kimpaynter19
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Coworking

Points to PREIT and partners for putting effort into creating a diverse, user-friendly destination.

One exciting way the mall is fostering that vision is by leasing space to REC Philly, a start-up co-working and makerspace for artists and creatives. REC Philly started in a basement in North Philadelphia. Now, co-owners Dave Silver and William T. Toms (2019 Billies nominees) are launching an expansive, 10,000 square foot spaces that’s been referred to as “WeWork for Artists.”

It’ll have a podcast studio, rehearsal rooms and event space that holds as many as 200 people. The cocreating location will be open as late as 2 a.m. on weekends.

Industrious, a more established coworking brand, will join the lineup in 2020.

fashiondistrict-kimpaynter15
Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

Goods from China

Philadelphia is going international with YOYOSO, a China-based lifestyle department store with outposts throughout Asia and other cities around the globe. There you’ll find things like homewares, gifts and toys, digital accessories and health and beauty products.

fashiondistrict-laylajones05

CBD sales

National CBD retailer American Shaman will be pushing its hemp-infused brand of wellness and beauty products for people (and pets) at a shop inside the mall.

 

Thanks for reading another Billy Penn story

Seems you’re the kind of person who really digs in. Want more? Sign up for our free morning newsletter, the easy way to stay on top of Philly news.

Thanks for reading Billy Penn

Like the story above, everything we publish is powered by our members. If you enjoy reading, join today: Just $5/month makes more difference than you’d think.

Thanks for reading! We need you.

Reader donations power our newsroom. If Billy Penn helps you feel more connected to Philly, we’d love to count you as a member. Will you join us?

Lock in your support

Reader support powers our newsroom. A monthly membership helps lock it in.

Can we count on you as a Billy Penn sustainer?

Winning the local journalism game

Thank you: Member support powers our newsroom.

Know someone else who might like our work? Invite them to sign up for our free morning newsletter.