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Joe Coradino on building for the future

Rarely do we have an opportunity to start from scratch with a blank canvas, but when we do, it is important to take that step back and immerse ourselves in the opportunity.

Sixteen years ago, we embarked on a journey to transform what was once known as “The Gallery,” an underused shopping center in Center City Philadelphia, into Fashion District Philadelphia. It is the first robust retail and entertainment offering of its kind in Downtown Philly, and we used the present-day consumer as the blueprint for how to design and curate a lineup of concepts for the modern retail environment.

Our vision for The District was to create a truly unique and iconic destination, to completely reimagine the consumer experience and employ a forward-thinking, strategic approach to redefining the future of retail. The objective: create a well-curated, one-of-a-kind destination that blends shopping, dining, entertainment, and cultural experiences in a downtown location that is inclusive, accessible, and convenient for everyone.

From a variety of retailers to multiple dining concepts, dynamic entertainment for kids and adults, ongoing community events, immersive activations, and several unique features – including art installations and local businesses – the offerings at The District are designed to maximize day-to-night appeal and deliver an unforgettable experience for all.

By considering who we are serving, what their needs are, how they will be utilizing the space, how we can impact the neighborhood and the city, and why guests would want to visit The District, we were able to shape the industry by setting the standard for shopping destinations of today, while at the same time determining what the future of commercial real estate should look like.

The District’s tenancy and programming has been curated to attract residents, commuters, and tourists alike. The physical space had to be inviting; its design was based on four pillars. 

  • Style: Bringing together a combination of flagship, off-price, fast-fashion, traditional full-price, branded outlet stores, and first-to-market concepts, The District offers mass appeal to a diverse customer base, combining a high-quality experience with accessible style, and introducing 30 first-to-market concepts including Nike and Primark.
  • Dining: The District offers a collection of unique dining concepts, ranging from fast casual like Chick-fil-A to quick bites and coffee at Starbucks and and cross-over live entertainment at City Winery. Its 20 dining options are destinations for lunch breaks, happy hours, and date nights.
  • Entertainment: The District features a dedicated third-floor entertainment zone where visitors can enjoy billiards, bowling, karaoke, a dine-and-recline movie at AMC Movie Theater, or rotating interactive art exhibits from around the world at Wonderspaces.
  • Arts & Culture: Aspiring to be an integral part of the local community and the project has invested more than $1 million in art and murals by both local and world-renowned artists. Uniquely Philly on the concourse level sells Philadelphia-made products and supports small businesses.

These four pillars foster endless possibilities for experience within The District’s 900,000 sq. ft., spanning three city blocks. The ultimate goal: Make The District a “must-see” destination Philly’s 43 million annual visitors, as well as a multi-purpose, one-stop-shop for its office workers and residents.

After more than three years of construction, we opened The District on Sept. 19 and drew more than 156,000 consumers in the first four days with a dynamic mix of tenants, live music, giveaways, experiential activations, and events. Nine out of 10 tenants reported strong traffic and sales that exceeded their expectations for opening weekend.

The experience-driven model is one that the best retail properties all over the country are emulating in an effort to provide go-to destinations for people, regardless of what they are looking for. We are confident that the central location of The District—connected to the SEPTA commuter train terminal and the Pennsylvania Convention Center—will make it the place to  meet, eat, shop, drink, exchange ideas, experience entertainment, and find respite in the heart of a bustling world-class city.

In just two months of operation, we have welcomed more than 1 million visitors to the District, announced new destination tenants and first-to-market concepts, hosted two dozen events, and created hundreds of new retail jobs that directly impact the Philadelphia community.

Fashion District Philadelphia is not only a beacon in PREIT’s evolving portfolio, but will serve as our legacy for years to come as we continue to be industry leaders in the ever-changing retail landscape.

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