Pattye Benson

Community Matters

King of Prussia Mall

Supporting our Local Shops and Restaurants — ‘Shop Small’ this Holiday Shopping Season

Reading about the expansion planned for King of Prussia Mall, you would not know there is anything wrong with the local economy.

As the King of Prussia Plaza and the Court developed over the years, it seemed like a waste of valuable property to have the two sections of the mall connected by an open breezeway. I don’t know about you, but I would drive to either the Plaza or the Court side of the mall, but I don’t recall ever walking outside from one side to the other.

The planned expansion will enclose the covered walkway, link together the mall’s two wings and add 40 additional stores. The 140,000 square foot addition will now let shoppers walk from one end of the mall to the other without going outside.

This latest expansion news is separate from the addition currently being built at the site of the old Wanamaker’s department store. That redevelopment two-story project scheduled for completion by the end of 2012, will add 122,000 square feet of retail space with 10 new stores.

Several of the news stories report that the King of Prussia Mall is the largest shopping mall in theUnited Statesat nearly 3 million feet of retail space. In fact, I thought that the KOP mall was second in size to the Mall of Americas in Minneapolis. A quick check on Wikipedia indicates that King of Prussia Mall is the largest in square feet of shopping space (Mall of Americas is second is square footage) but that Mall of Americas is first in number of stores (522+) and that King of Prussia Mall is second at 400+ stores. Not sure how many annual visitors Mall of Americas can claim but King of Prussia Mall website is boasting they attract more than 25 million visitors per year.

Beyond the King of Prussia Mall expansion plans, the surrounding mall area has exploded in development in the last few years, Seasons 52, Home Depot, Sullivan’s Steakhouse, Maggiano’s, Crate & Barrel, Costco, 16-screen movie and IMAX theater, etc. Wegmans atKing of PrussiaonGulph scheduled to open in spring 2012.

In the shadow of the King of Prussia Mall and Valley Forge National Historic Park, the Valley Forge Casino Resort is preparing for a March opening. Counting down to the casino opening, Pennsylvania’s latest gambling hall is finding itself in a desperate situation … they still need 300 dealers. Demand has outstripped supply and by January, management is preparing for an outreach program to New Jersey and Florida.

All of this is very exciting news for the local economy but I find myself reflecting on this past Saturday, which was the 2nd annual Small Business Saturday. There was a major national advertising campaign by American Express and others to ‘Shop Small’ by encouraging us to visit our favorite local stores and help to fuel the economy — I hope that many of our community’s small businesses benefited from the advertising campaign.

I recently drove from Bryn Mawr to Malvern; purposely taking the Lancaster Ave. route. Although there are pockets of growth and development along Route 30 (most notably in the Wayne area), there was an overwhelming number of empty storefronts and leasing signs. Even when the economy was healthy, small businesses in this area struggled to compete and find their niche against the many offerings of the King of Prussia Mall. So although the explosion and development in King of Prussia is wonderful for the job market and local economy, how is it possible for the small businesses along Rt. 30 to survive? The commercial giants like Costco, Home Depot and Wal-Mart can weather the economic challenges but how long cam small businesses realistically survive? The large mega-retail discount chains have developed such strong competitive advantages that threaten the ‘Main Streets’ and sadly the ‘Mom and Pop’ stores are becoming a dying breed.

Some of the communities around us have done a better job of embracing and supporting the main street shopping formula – we see it in Media, Wayne, Phoenixville,West Chesterand in near-by Malvern. Visionaries created a purpose for people to visit these communities and then a reason for the visitors to return over and over, but what about Tredyffrin.

Last February, when I suggested an Economic Development Committee, the purpose was to find ways to support our local small business community and explore ways to help fill empty storefronts. Many people pointed out there are limitations on our local government to provide incentives, zoning options, etc. for development. A few weeks ago, the supervisors announced the members of the economic advisory council and certainly, this is a good sign. However, I am guessing that the members will likely focus on area commercial real estate, vacant office buildings and the large empty box stores.

Small businesses are competing against the chain stores and the shopping malls this holiday shopping season. Pumping money into the local economy this holiday shopping season will help keep their doors open so let’s all make a commitment to support our independent stores and restaurants. Besides who needs ToysRUs when we have the Toy Department at the Paoli Hardware Center!

What would General George Washington think about casino gambling in his backyard?

I drove through Valley Forge National Historic Park, enjoying the weather and the beautiful autumn colors of the trees. I was remembering General Washington and his Continental Army from 1777-78 as I exited the park onto Gulph Road by Rt. 422. With thoughts of the Revolutionary War in my mind, I turned the corner to see construction signs for the Valley Forge Casino Resort.

At a cost of $100 million, the new resort casino is scheduled to open in the spring of 2012. Apparently, the casino will create 500 permanent jobs and is expected to add many tourist and business dollars to the local coffers. Advertised as ‘world-class’, the casino will be housed in the Valley Forge Convention Center and feature 50 table games and 600 of the ‘most popular’ slot machines. Construction is currently underway to convert 40,000 square feet of the convention center into the casino.

By spring, our tourist and business travelers can tour Valley Forge National Historic Park, shop at the King of Prussia Mall and gamble at the casino resort. The architect for the project is Cope Linder Architects who designed the Borgata in Atlantic City. The architects will create a gaming space with high ceilings and design with feng-shui influence – sorry, not even this planned high-style design is selling me.

I have not heard any mention of infrastructure improvements as a result of the casino. My guess is that because the owners of the Valley Forge Convention Center are utilizing the existing footprint, additional improvements for road and traffic issues may not be a requirement for the land development project. So maybe it is incorrect of me to suggest that the planned resort casino will add to the existing traffic problems of Routes 23, 422 and 202 in the King of Prussia area. Maybe a casino will not add any more cars on the road than the convention center.

I saw an advertisement in the Pottstown Mercury newspaper that caused me pause. If you are a local college student that is looking for a new career path, apparently the Montgomery County Community College has partnered with the Valley Forge Casino Resort to train potential job candidates in the art of ‘card dealing’. Although employment at the casino is not guaranteed, the college course will teach you everything you need to know to become a dealer in the exciting casino world. Guess the saying, “if you play your cards right” has real meaning in this case! The country’s economy and lack of jobs coupled with promises of a lucrative, exciting life will probably encourage some of our Pennsylvania college age kids in the direction of casinos as a career path.

Bottom line for me . . . something just seems so wrong about a glitzy resort casino juxtaposed to the Valley Forge National Historic Park. I accept that many jobs will be created and additional revenue will help the local economy but I don’t think anyone can argue that a resort casino will forever change our landscape. I am not a gambler so maybe that is the major reason that I am saddened by this local construction project. I would be curious to know what others think of a casino in our backyard.

King of Prussia Mall Parking Lot . . . Saturday Afternoon . . . Gunpoint Robbery

This morning, there was an online news article from The Mercury with the following story. Most readers would probably have given the King of Prussia police report but a passing glance, and I too would likely have skipped over it, . . . that is until the subject of guns in Valley Forge National Historical Park became a topic last week. Until that new federal law was instituted allowing weapons in Valley Forge park, I was naively going through life not giving much thought to guns in general, let alone in Tredyffrin Township.

But the reality is that now I do read the police report about the armed robbery on Saturday afternoon in the parking area of the King of Prussia Mall. The commentary on gun ownership, individual protection, the NRA, Second Amendment rights, etc. has provided many of us with new information. Whether its the discussion on Second Amendment rights in Valley Forge National Historical Park, or an armed robbery at our local shopping mall, this dicussion has served to open my eyes. Gone is my innocent thinking that guns are only somewhere else . . . I am much more informed on the subject.

King of Prussia Mall Employee Robbed at Gunpoint

Published: Tuesday, March 2, 2010

KING OF PRUSSIA — An employee of The Court at King of Prussia was robbed at gunpoint Sunday afternoon in the mall parking lot, police said. Upper Merion police are investigating the robbery and asking the public’s help to nab a suspect.

The 20-year-old mall employee had gone from the store where he worked to his vehicle on the first level of the Court parking garage at 4:25 p.m., when he was accosted by a man with a handgun, police said. “He was going out to retrieve something out of his car,” Upper Merion Police Lt. James Early said. The officer said the incident occurred in the garage not far from Allendale Road.

The assailant reportedly pointed a black semi-automatic gun at the worker and demanded his wallet. After the victim turned over his wallet, the robber fled west on Court Boulevard toward Mall Boulevard. Investigators don’t believe the gunman knew the mall employee. Armed robberies are “pretty rare” in and around the sprawling 3-million-square-foot shopping mall complex that includes King of Prussia Plaza, The Court at King of Prussia and The Pavilion, Early said. The mall has more than 400 retail stores and dozens of restaurants.

The gunman was described as a black male in his early 20s with short black hair. He wore a black zip-up jacket and dark jeans, authorities said. Police searched the area but were unable to locate a suspect. “We’re asking anyone who witnessed the crime to call our detectives,” Early said.

Community Matters © 2024 Frontier Theme