Proposed PREIT-era Renovations - mid 2000s
In the mid 2000s, the Phillipsburg Mall was beginning to struggle. With the stock market crash, later recession, average income plummeting in Phillipsburg and nearby areas, and shift towards online marketplaces like Amazon, then mall owner PREIT saw many retailers leave the mall during that timeframe.
However, PREIT also began to see the Phillipsburg Mall truly age into the basic 1980s mall many feared it would become. With the last major renovation occuring in 2003 - which included the addition of Kohl's as an anchor tenant, a shift of the color scheme going to blue and mauve, and the removal of fountains and other visual elements across the mall, it began to look like "one long hallway", as many referred to the mall during that time.
To combat the terrible aging the mall was beginning to see, PREIT took this as an opportunity to search out for a firm specializing in retail spaces - CREATE Architecture (which at the time was about ten years removed from their last project in Phillipsburg, Toys 'R' Us) - was tasked out to propose plans detailing renovations of the mall.
At the time, PREIT was also in talks with national retailer Dick's Sporting Goods to open a store at the mall as a sixth and final anchor tenant. Finally, in CREATE's video detailed above, there's also a variant which shows a family entertainment venue (like a cinema or family gambling venue, such as Dave & Buster's) and a hotel being built in the rear undeveloped section of the property.
Renderings and drawings in the video show Phillipsburg Mall being turned into an upscale shopping mall with many stores accessible from the outside - more like a strip mall - rather than an enclosed mall. Specifically, the illustrations of the interior show variation in tile, ceiling designs, and lighting- bringing an end to the "long hallway" issue that PREIT wanted to desperately get rid of.
A few of CREATE's variations in the plans were quite ambitious- some included shifting Bon-Ton to a new building and erecting a new main entrance in its former location, another including the hotel and family entertainment venue, extensively renovating the interior by removing or rehabbing skylights, removing or moving entrances, and building a new façade for the entirety of the mall's perimeter.
CREATE's proposed plans also included variants which would take sections of unoccupied inline tenants and convert it into a new food court. Later owner Mason/Namdar would convert the same spaces laid out in the plans into a new tenant, Gold's Gym, somewhat keeping with CREATE's proposed plans during the PREIT era.
Sadly, CREATE's plans that were proposed to mall owner PREIT would never see the light of day. In 2013, Mason/Namdar acquired the Phillipsburg Mall for $11.5M, not only a bargain for what PREIT not only acquired the mall for as part of Crown American's portfolio several years before, but more-so a bargain from the potential PREIT saw in the mall, according to these proposed renovations