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It’s taken more than seven years, two heated elections and countless hours of work, but construction is well under way for a new, mega-improved Moorestown Mall. Shoppers, diners, movie-goers – you’re about to be really happy.

It’s a project that almost didn’t happen. About seven years ago, Joe Coradino knew the key to improving the Moorestown Mall was enticing high-end restaurants to open there. Coradino, CEO of Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), the owner of Moorestown Mall, had just proven this at another of PREIT’s properties, Cherry Hill Mall. Only problem was Moorestown was dry.

Actually, that wasn’t the only problem.

“Restaurants are the new anchors for malls,” says Coradino. “They are tremendous traffic generators, and they don’t compete with mall stores. Bringing the liquor licenses, and thus fine-dining restaurants, was critical for the mall’s success moving forward,” So PREIT filed a petition asking Moorestown voters to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Sixty-two percent of voters said no. “We lost that one,” Coradino says, “but were determined to keep trying.”

In 2011, PREIT again campaigned for a referendum allowing alcohol sales in Moorestown, only this time limiting those sales to four full-service restaurants at the mall.

To say many residents were against the referendum is an understatement, and a volatile public debate ensued. “We were passionate about the referendum, but I think the opposition may have been even more passionate. They were very vocal about their views. Thankfully, we had a handful of local residents who really took on the cause,” says Coradino.

Even with their active campaigning, Coradino says, “I was always nervous we wouldn’t prevail. On the night of the election, I was so unsure I went home before the results were in. I was getting ready to go to bed when I got a phone call from someone telling me, ‘You won.’ I said, ‘You’ve gotta be kidding me.’”

Roughly 60 percent of Moorestown voters chose to lift the township’s century-long ban on alcohol sales.

“This was a big deal for us. I had already decided I was going to pursue the liquor licenses again if the referendum didn’t pass, and I was very excited we didn’t have to do that. It was a lot of work, and I don’t want to do it again at another property,” says Coradino.

Just months after the referendum passed, PREIT’s work began paying off in a big way when the firm executed a lease with renowned restaurateur Marc Vetri. The acclaimed chef agreed to replicate his Philadelphia eatery Osteria at the Moorestown Mall.

“We had already been in talks with several well-known restaurants ahead of the referendum being passed,” says Coradino. “Our mission was very clear: to bring quality restaurants that fit with the residential culture in and around Moorestown.”

“Marc Vetri is a visionary,” adds PREIT Senior Vice President Joe Aristone, “and he saw the potential and opportunity at Moorestown Mall. Not only that, his restaurant concepts are outstanding, and the food and atmosphere will be a great fit. Osteria is going to be an amazing culinary experience right here in South Jersey – not to mention convenient and without the traffic and parking headaches you have in Philadelphia.”

The high-end eatery is slated to open its doors by the end of the year and will occupy 5,000 square feet and have an outdoor dining area. The menu will include Italian-style food like homemade pastas, thin-crust pizzas, wood-grilled meats and fish, and an extensive wine list.

Just weeks after inking the deal with Vetri, PREIT added another high-profile restaurant to the mall line-up, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. The chain currently operates 25 restaurants and offers an upscale, casual interior with features including an exposed kitchen, an indoor stone fireplace, a wine wall and an expansive bar. The restaurant is on track to open at the same time as Osteria.

“Like Osteria, Firebirds will have outdoor dining,” says Aristone. “It adds a nice element to the dining experience.”

Corner Bakery Cafe, a fast-casual restaurant, will be added alongside the existing Pei Wei Asian Diner just outside the mall. The eatery, which will be the first Corner Bakery in SJ, will serve sweets, sandwiches, salads, soups and pasta.

MOO RegalCinExterior HIRESThe largest renovation at the mall, which has been underway since the beginning of the year, is the 56,000-square-foot, 12-screen Regal Premium Experience (RPX) Theater that’s currently under construction. The high-tech theater will feature digital projectors, surround sound and stadium seating with high-back rocking recliner seats.

MOO RegalCinInterior HIRES“It’s the first RPX theater in the entire Philadelphia market, and I think families and couples are going to be amazed by the picture, sound and entire experience,” says Aristone. “I foresee this becoming the go-to theater in our area. Already, I get more questions about the theater than any other questions about the entire mall renovation, so clearly people are excited for it.”

The buzz surrounding the mall experienced got another boost this August, when PREIT announced that Iron Chef and James Beard Award-winner Jose Garces would also be opening a restaurant, Distrito, at the mall.

“Together, Vetri and Garces are a fantastic draw,” says Coradino. “You’ve got these amazing, world-class chefs in one spot where there’s free parking and a weather-protected environment.”

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both Vetri and Garces signed on to join the mall,” adds Aristone. “It’s a little unorthodox for high-profile chefs to open new locations outside of the city, especially at a mall. I think that speaks to what we’re doing here.”

Distrito, which is already a favorite in Philadelphia, will occupy 7,500 square feet and feature contemporary interpretations of regional Mexican dishes and a premium tequila bar in a modern setting. The restaurant, which Aristone says will open in early 2014, will be located on the Route 38 side of the mall by Boscov’s, right next to Osteria.

While PREIT has already secured an impressive list of restaurants to join the mall, Coradino says, “We’ll be naming a fourth restaurant by the end of the year. It will be in the same vein of the restaurants already coming to Moorestown.”

Though construction at the restaurants and theater is still ongoing, several well-known retailers, including The Walking Company and Crazy 8, have opened at the mall ahead of the surge.

“We’re also working to bring in a number of boutiques and specialty stores,” says Aristone.

In a surprise announcement, PREIT also reported that one of the region’s best-known salons, Rizzieri Salon and Spa, will relocate from its flagship venue on Route 73 in Marlton to a newly designed, 12,000-square-foot space at the Moorestown Mall late next year. Rizzieri has been at the Marlton location for X years.

“Rizzieri is such a strong brand in South Jersey, and we’re thrilled to have them on board,” says Coradino. “Women will be able to get their hair and nails done at the salon, meet their girlfriends for lunch at one of our restaurants and then take some time to shop. It’s our goal to make a trip to the mall experiential.

“As we’ve learned more about our customers, we’ve discovered shopping alone isn’t enough. Dining and entertainment are the other key parts of the experience. I think we’ll have people coming across the bridge into South Jersey to be a part of what Moorestown Mall has to offer.”

 

 

 

DINING AT MOORESTOWN MALL

Whether it’s for dinner, drinks with friends, lunch or even a quick bite, check out these new hot spots coming to the Moorestown Mall.

 

Osteria
Opening late 2013

This SJ spin-off of the award-winning Philadelphia restaurant of the same name is the brainchild of acclaimed chef and restaurateur Marc Vetri. The menu and décor will be modeled after the Center City eatery, designed to replicate a rustic farmhouse and offer Italian specialties like thin-crust pizzas and homemade pastas. The 5,000-square-foot restaurant will also feature an outdoor dining area.

 

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
Opening late 2013

With an exposed kitchen, indoor stone fireplace, wine wall and expansive bar (dubbed the “Firebar” by the restaurant), Firebirds Wood Fired Grill will bring another upscale, casual dining experience to the Moorestown Mall. Patrons will be able to enjoy dishes like lobster spinach queso, crab cakes, tenderloin kabobs and wood-grilled salmon. Firebirds, which operates more than 25 other restaurants across the country, is making its first foray in SJ with the eatery.

 

Distrito
Opening early 2014

Award-winning chef Jose Garces will be bringing his brand of Mexican cuisine to SJ with the opening of Distrito. Garces owns and operates Distritos in three other locations – the original in Philadelphia, and spots in Atlantic City and Scottsdale, Ariz. – as well as a dozen other successful restaurants across the country. His location at the mall will feature his signature take on contemporary Mexican dishes and a tequila bar in a colorful, modern atmosphere.

 

Corner Bakery Cafe
Opening late 2013

Though not technically in the mall (the restaurant will be located on an outparcel alongside the existing Pei Wei), Corner Bakery Café will bring another fast-casual option to the Moorestown property. The eatery, which has more than 150 locations nationwide, will be the first in SJ. The bakery cafe menu will feature fresh-made sweets, sandwiches, salads, soups and pasta.

October 2013
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