Passengers at five busy transit stations will face detours when the Gallery shopping center in Center City closes for renovations.
But frustrated officials at SEPTA and PATCO can't alert riders to coming changes, because, they say, they've been unable to get information from Gallery manager Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT).
"We really don't know anything," said PATCO spokeswoman Fran O'Brien, who said PREIT officials had said only that they were in the process of finalizing development plans.
"It's not clear at this point if there definitely will be a disruption for SEPTA passengers, or what it might be," said SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch. "We'll stay in contact with them moving forward to keep riders up to date."
PREIT spokeswoman Heather Crowell said, "By mid-February, we'll have some information to share publicly."
Deputy mayor Alan Greenberger said transit riders won't be able to use the underground concourse to walk from one end of the Gallery to the other, once construction is in full swing.
"They can't. It will be a construction zone," he said.
The city is hammering out details of transit access as part of a new lease with PREIT that will be completed within a month or two, Greenberger said.
During construction, commuters will have to go to street level to travel between stations, he said.
When the construction is completed in several years, transit access "is more or less going to look like it looks now," he said.
As PREIT prepares to remake the Gallery as a high-end mall - or at least a higher-end mall - businesses and fast-food eateries are closing almost daily.
So far, though, the transit stations haven't been affected.
Shops at the Gallery flank an underground concourse beneath Market Street between 8th and 11th Streets. The concourse is a major thoroughfare for passengers using five transit stations:
SEPTA's Jefferson Station (formerly known as Market East), which is the second-busiest Regional Rail station, with about 26,000 trips a day.
SEPTA's Market-Frankford subway stations at 8th and Market (10,830 boardings per day) and 11th and Market (9,600 boardings daily).
SEPTA's Broad-Ridge Spur subway stop at 8th and Market, with 3,110 boardings daily.
PATCO's 8th and Market subway station, the second-busiest on that line, with 5,491 daily boardings.
"Access to mass transit is extremely important to us," said Crowell at PREIT.
"Our thought is that we'll be able to say more by mid-February, which will be in advance of any potential disruptions," she said.
PREIT owns the anchor buildings housing Burlington Coat Factory and Century 21, but the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority owns most of the Gallery, having spent $101 million on it in the 1970s. PREIT leases the mall from the city.
PREIT and partner Macerich Inc. are now seeking financial help from the city to help pay for the redevelopment of the complex.
PREIT has been tight-lipped about its specific plans for the mall, other than to describe the redevelopment as a major upgrade.
Last fall, chief executive officer Joseph F. Coradino told financial analysts that the opening of the new Century 21 store "marks the first step in the renaissance of the Gallery . . .. We're poised to deliver a world-class project."
Mayor Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald, said at the time:
"The mayor is strongly supportive of the efforts to transform Market Street, and clearly the renewal of the Gallery is a key part of that effort.
"In broad strokes, we hope for more doors onto the street and more activity on the street, a more exciting and inviting place for Philadelphians and visitors."
The Gallery is actually two commercial developments, completed six years apart.
The Gallery at Market East opened in 1977, buttressed by the adjacent Strawbridge & Clothier and Gimbels department stores, both of which have long since closed.
Gallery II opened in October 1983, with the completion of SEPTA's new Market East (now Jefferson) Station.