Discount-apparel retailer Century 21 coming to the Gallery

The Gallery at Market East, among the 35 enclosed shopping centers owned by PREIT - whose vice chairman and former president is stepping down. A20.
The Gallery at Market East, among the 35 enclosed shopping centers owned by PREIT - whose vice chairman and former president is stepping down. A20. (ED HILLE /Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 25, 2014

Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, which owns the Gallery at Market East, announced Wednesday that Century 21 Department Stores will anchor the long-anticipated redevelopment of the sprawling Center City retail complex.

In recent weeks, the New York-based discount-apparel retailer had been rumored to be a major player in the refurbishing of the struggling mall, but the news was made official in a curt mention during PREIT's quarterly earnings report Wednesday.

Century 21 describes itself as offering designer clothing for men, women, and children, as well as cosmetics, handbags, shoes, lingerie, housewares, luggage, and gifts. On its website, it bills itself as offering "65 percent off retail 100 percent of the time." The company opened its first store in Manhattan in 1961 and now has seven stores in the New York/North Jersey areas.

PREIT owns 35 shopping malls nationwide, and Cherry Hill, Exton Square, Moorestown, Plymouth Meeting, Springfield, and Willow Grove Park malls, and Voorhees Town Center locally.

The announcement was followed an hour or so later by a message from Bob Hall, publisher of Interstate General Media - owner of The Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com - to employees that renovations on behalf of the Gallery's redevelopment would involve the Market Street entry to 801 Market St., where the media companies' offices are located.

Hall's message mentioned new developments at the Gallery, saying: "Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) has advised us that a new retailing tenant will be moving into the first and second floor of our building in the coming months and that, in order to best accommodate their footprint and space requirements, IGM has agreed to relinquish to PREIT our Market Street entrance and lobby effective Saturday, May 31."

Earlier this month, The Inquirer reported the rumor of Century 21's future presence at the Gallery, quoting Larry Steinberg, of the commercial real estate firm CBRE/Fameco, as saying: "That would be great, if it's true. We've been after them to move to Philadelphia for a long time. It would be like having a Nordstrom's Rack."

At the time, Michael Salove, of MSC Retail in Center City, said of Century 21: "We have worked with them, and they are looking around, [but] they very strongly prefer to own the real estate that they open stores in, so that is a factor." It is believed that Century 21 would be a tenant at the Gallery through its arrangement with PREIT.

The retailer is not related to Century 21 Real Estate L.L.C., of Madison, N.J.

On Wednesday, neither PREIT nor Century 21 would comment. PREIT has scheduled a conference call for 11 a.m. Thursday. But in the earnings report, there was reference to big change.

"During the first quarter, we finalized a number of exciting transactions that we expect will fortify the merchandising mix and drive performance at our properties," said Joseph F. Coradino, PREIT's chief executive officer. "The transformation of PREIT is well underway."


chepp@phillynews.com

215-854-2594

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