Gloucester Township, commonly referred to by its neighborhood names - Blackwood, Erial, Blenheim - hopes a new outlet mall will help create an identity that makes the town a destination.
A 55-acre complex has been proposed near the Route 42 interchange. To be known as Gloucester Premium Outlets, it will house 90 to 120 stores in a 450,000-square-foot center that the township's mayor, David Mayer, called an "outdoor mall."
The project is a partnership between Simon Property Group, which developed Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Limerick, and PREIT-Rubin Inc., which owns the Cherry Hill and Moorestown Malls.
Though a representative for the project would not say which stores would be part of the complex or when the groundbreaking will take place, Mayer said the company hoped to start construction in September, with the goal of opening by the 2014 Christmas season.
Renderings indicate that the complex, which Mayer said would create 300 construction jobs and 700 retail jobs, would include Colonial-style architecture, water fountains, and green space.
The outlets would be close to interchanges that were completed in 2010. The stores would be between the Black Horse Pike and Route 42 along Zimmerman Drive.
"We were certain that the interchange project would open up that area to development," said Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, adding that he was surprised it happened so quickly.
Mayer said the access to major thoroughfares made the area attractive for developers.
Mayer said he had received few complaints about the development; two concerned preserving the green space where the stores would go. Though open space is important, he said, "this is an area that is designed to be developed and needs to be."
The town has long had underperforming shopping centers along Blackwood-Clementon Road and the Black Horse Pike.
Mayer said he hoped this project and an offtrack wagering facility and restaurant soon to open in two vacant buildings would spur development.
The outlets also offer an opportunity to "give the township an identity," Mayer said.
Gloucester Township is home to nearly 65,000 people, but it has long been identified by its sections.
For reasons of identity, Mayer said, the outlets will bear the name Gloucester Premium Outlets at Gloucester Township. By trying to draw the community to the township name, Mayer said, he is trying to draw businesses to the town.
"There's tremendous potential in Gloucester Township," he said. "People want to come here to Gloucester Township, and that's what I want."