The Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), owner of the Plymouth Meeting Mall, is hoping to bring residential development to its property in the form of a 260+ apartment building south of the Whole Foods.
PREIT Vice President of Development Andrew Bottaro presented the idea before Plymouth Council at the body's workshop meeting Monday night, laying out plans he said are in the "conceptual" stage.
"With the mixed use nature of the center…with the movie theater, office, healthcare, retail and restaurants…we think the appropriate thing and the trend in the industry is to bring residential to the [mall]," Bottaro said.
Bottaro said early plans call for a 260 to 275-unit, four-story apartment building, complete with a swimming pool, club house, and surface parking. He named the location as the site of the former Ikea office building, a 4.5-acre lot south of Whole Foods. By taking some land from Whole Foods and the adjacent Metroplex movie theater, the entire footprint would come out to seven or eight acres, Bottaro said.
In addition, Bottaro said that adding residential was a trend in the industry, citing a PREIT property in Voorhees, N.J., where half of a mall was knocked down and a 400-unit apartment building established in its place.
"There's a demand for this in the market and we think it will just add to the success of what we've already done at the mall," Bottaro said.
The center's current zoning does not allow for residential uses, Bottaro said, meaning that PREIT would likely need to appear before the township's Zoning Hearing Board and Council to ask for a variance. Bottaro did not say when they hoped to move forward with that process.
Councilman Dean Eisenberger asked Bottaro about additional traffic.
"How would you plan… traffic and the issues that would be generated by 260 units, since the mall parking lot right now becomes cumbersome during prime time Friday nights?" Eisenberger asked.
Bottaro responded by saying that PREIT had consulted with engineering firm McMahon and Associates, which gave an early opinion that traffic would not be greatly affected.
"In conversations with [engineer Joseph DeSantis], he said that a residential use is a very complimentary use, because the morning trip of a residential apartment doesn't interfere with a retail trip at all-- there's no crossover," Bottaro said. "That's the beauty of mixed use… traffic moves at different times of the day."
Bottaro also said that the apartment building would have access to Hickory Road, in order to more evenly distribute traffic.
Bottaro hinted at further plans to develop an additional ten-acre lot directly west of the old Ikea office lot, in a space currently occupied by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and the Sleepy's mattress store. While stopping short of saying what the plans were, Bottaro did say they were also "mixed-use" in nature.
Bottaro added that the mall currently has 90 percent occupancy and is in talks to bring a Mexican-style restaurant to an old storehouse furniture space and an entertainment concept to an empty space above it.