Developers of a University City-area shopping mall announced Thursday they are moving forward with a major expansion project.
According to Westfield UTC developers, the revitalization plan calls for a 14-screen ArcLight Cinemas complex, dozens of new stores and restaurants and the transformation of the mall into a "retail resort"-inspired experience. In addition, the 24 Hour Fitness will triple in size and the food court will be turned into a casual, but upscale, dining terrace.
Developers said store fronts will also get a new look, and existing overhanging bulkheads will be replaced with taller, more open shop fronts.
The original plan was approved in 2008 and included $1 billion in upgrades, but was delayed during the recession. The first phase of the plan will cost $180 million.
Greg Fitchitt, VP of Development for Westfield UTC, said, "2008 was tough, 2009 was tough and the recovery has been slow, but this is a great center, it's a great location, long term; we're doing better and we're really going to be lifting it back up. In the long term, we see this as a real town center environment. It should be real mixed use, live, work, shop, play, all that here at UTC."
The mall, which opened in 1977, hasn't had any major upgrades since 1984. Shopper Eileen Hope has been walking her dog at the mall for decades and said she's looking forward to the changes.
"Obviously, if you look at the floors and such, it does need upgrading and to have it done in a very nice way, as you can see by the pictures, it will be very beneficial to everybody," said Hope.
The project is expected to generate 2,400 jobs new jobs, including nearly 1,000 construction-related jobs.
The remodeling is expected to be finished in fall 2012.
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