A major Philadelphia-area enclosed mall is starting a new chapter in its nearly 60-year history — by going back to its origins. The old Cheltenham (Pa.) Square Mall, a go-to retail destination for decades, began operating in 1959 as an open-air center. In 1981 it became an enclosed center.
Since then, the property has had its ups and downs, passing through several owners (including Thor Equities and Simon) and gaining and losing a variety of anchors and tenants — including a Gimbels department store that closed down in 1986. In 2009 a Target replaced a United Artists cinema, and many blamed the theater’s closure for a drop in visits to the mall. Several retailers subsequently departed, including Bath & Body Works, The Children’s Place and a DSW shoe store.
The current owner, Sun Equity Partners, acquired the property in 2014 through bankruptcy court for $30 million and then set about demolishing a good portion of it. The firm spent millions more on creating an open-air plaza. The center reopened in April as Greenleaf at Cheltenham, a 430,000-square-foot, open-air center.
“Greenleaf at Cheltenham is a perfect example of how traditional malls are being reinvented,” said Max Silver, a senior sales associate at Metro Commercial, which is leasing the center. “By reducing the footprint of the original mall, opening it up and adding more parking, Greenleaf at Cheltenham offers guests an opportunity to experience exciting shopping, dining, and health and beauty retailers in a convenient, appealing location.”
1959 Cheltenham Square Mall opens
1981 The mall is enclosed
1986 Gimbels closes
2005 Thor Equities buys the property from Simon
2009 Target opens
2014 Sun Equity Partners buys the mall for $30 million
April 2018 The redeveloped property reopens as Greenleaf at Cheltenham
Target remains an anchor, along with Burlington, The Home Depot and Shop Rite. The center is about 75 percent leased or preleased, to Chipotle Mexican Grill, Five Below, LA Fitness, Marshalls, Old Navy, TD Bank, T-Mobile and Wells Fargo, among others.
“When we bought the Cheltenham Mall, we knew that there was an opportunity to turn it into a shopping experience that would better service the community,” said Abe Tress, director of operations at Sun Equity Partners. “With the help of Metro Commercial, we were able to secure top-tier national brands and completely revitalize the shopping center and the neighborhood. We are proud of what we and our team have been able to accomplish so far and are looking forward to adding more dynamic retail, food and other uses to the center soon.”
By Edmund Mander