Century 21, the discount designer department store coming to the Gallery at Market East, will act as a catalyst for plans to renovate the Center City retail complex, says Joseph Coradino, chief executive officer of Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, which owns the mall.
"Century 21 is a tenant that is in sync with all those new customers we want to bring to the Gallery: the new residents of Center City, the commuters, the conventioneers, the visitors to the historic district, the office workers," Coradino told stock analysts in a PREIT earnings call Thursday. "We think it will be a huge draw."
At a news conference later with Mayor Nutter in the east portal of City Hall, looking down Market Street, Coradino portrayed Century 21's decision to locate in Center City as a sign of confidence in its resurgence.
"Philadelphia is hot, and the Gallery is well-positioned to take advantage," Coradino said, describing Century 21 as "a great clothing store" bent on "creating a new retail experience" for shoppers. It plans to open in October and stay open until 9 or 10 each evening, he said, bringing vibrancy to the neighborhood.
The Gallery location will be Century 21's first outside metropolitan New York City, where it has eight stores, attracting shoppers from all over the world, Coradino said. The chain offers discounted designer clothing, housewares, cosmetics, shoes, luggage and more.
"It has almost a cult following," Coradino said. "It is a very iconic brand."
Century 21 will lease 100,000 square feet, mostly on the second floor of the former Strawbridge's building at 801 Market St. but also including 16,000 square feet on the first floor - leaving room for other retail businesses at street level, Coradino said.
Earlier, he told analysts that he envisioned two additional tenants on the first floor in the concourse area of the building.
He declined to discuss the financial terms, including the length of the lease or how much the deal is worth.
City Commerce Director Alan Greenberger said no public subsidies of any kind were involved in enticing Century 21 to Philadelphia.
The space at 801 Market has been vacant since 2006, and PREIT has been talking to Century 21 since 2009, Coradino said. "We've been trying to get them to come to Philadelphia for five years," he said.
When asked whether anything in particular had turned the retail company around, he said, "We're like junkyard dogs."
The lease was signed Tuesday, he said.
During the months ahead, Coradino said, PREIT plans to announce other new tenants for the Gallery, including "artisan restaurants."
In the earnings call, he said a movie theater was another possibility.
"We want to do the right kind of theater," he said. "More of an upper-end theater: wider seats, reclining seats, serving food in the theater."
Nutter described the announcement as "yet another out-of-town expression of confidence in our city. . . . Selling Philadelphia is no longer a tough job. . . . This may not necessarily be the warmest April we've ever had, but we are hot."
On Thursday, PREIT shares closed at $16.83, down $0.25, or 1.46 percent.