Philly-area malls being reimagined in wake of pandemic

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Your local mall might look different now than it did before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has caused a lot of malls to change how they do business.

Before the pandemic, the popularity of going to malls was starting to wane,  according to experts.

"The blend of uses we're now including in malls is well beyond anything we would have thought of three, four, five years ago," said Joseph Coradino, the CEO of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust.

They own several malls in the area including Cherry Hill Mall and Plymouth Meeting Mall, whose business models they had to rethink during the height of the pandemic.

"We closed all our malls for nearly four months, but coming out of it, it was an accelerator of change," Coradino added.

Coradino said their malls, like a lot of others around the country, have a new model that does not necessarily revolve around the retail store.

"(Malls are) adding gyms and grocery stores, doctor's offices, restaurants, entertainment, even apartments."

He believes this new model is once again driving people into those malls to shop.

"We did 14% more sales in the month of May (2021) than we did in the month of May in 2019."

Coradino explained they are also looking to put senior living facilities in some of those mixed-use mall spaces, something that can also help with real estate and retail.

He said this philosophy change about malls, brought on largely due to the pandemic, is here to stay.

"I think," said Coradino, "this is clearly the way of the future."