Updated: With a cluster of fashion outlets like Neiman Marcus Last Call at its north end, and an expanded Walmart (at the former Boscov's site, replacing an older Walmart nearby) opening next week in the discount-store group at its south end, Simon Property Group today renamed its 25-year-old, 1.8 million sq. ft., 2,500-worker shopping complex on Woodhaven Road in Northeast Philadelphia as "Philadelphia Mills." The owner has dropped the familiar "Franklin Mills" name and lighting-bolt logo, and replaced its green-and-orange building-blocks doorways with simpler orange-on-brown gates.
"We needed to take the project in a new direction. This is not the same Franklin Mills you might remember from 25 years ago," Gregg Goodman, president of Simon's Mills discount-shopping group, told me. Walmart has demolished part of the old space to make room for its new store. "Some of the spaces from when the property was first built had depths that were not appropriate for today's retail," Goodman said.
Simon has sold or spun off many of its smaller shopping malls to concentrate on a handful of large properties that it hopes serious shoppers will see as day-long destinations. The company also controls the giant King of Prussia shopping complex, one of the largest on the East Coast, where it is connecting the Plaza and Mall through a corridor of new stores; the Philadelphia Premium Outlets at Limerick, Montgomery County, and South Jersey's Gloucester Premium Outlets, where construction started last month; plus Montgomery Mall, among other area properties.
"The Mills are one-stop shopping, with a value, outlet and big-box focus. We have a little bit of everything in there, to appeal to every member of the family," Goodman said. "We're real bullish on Philadelphia Mills. Its best days are ahead."
Simon, based in Indianapolis, says it plans "at least a dozen" new stores or restaurants at Philadelphia Mills over the next year, including the city's first Express Factory Outlet clothing store, and is seeking other tenants. It's also built the first of two new mall entrances and plans new signs and landscaping this year, plus new skylights, lighting, floors and improved restrooms, WiFi and device-charging stations next year.
Besides its Nieman Marcus and Walmart stores, Philadelphia Mills stores include discount outlets for SaksOffFifth, Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store, Nike Factory Store, plus "the area's largest Forever 21."