Plymouth Meeting Mall was originally conceived in 1966 by architect Victor Gruen to be the center of a larger mixed-use development, and yet in time it had instead devolved into being ‘just another mall’. CREATE Architecture Planning & Design was charged with realizing the vision that the property could be a place where work, leisure and necessity could intertwine and thrive.
The mall’s new owner, PREIT, seized upon the original vision and set out on a challenging venture to update it to today’s lifestyles. CREATE designed new exterior plazas for all four of the center’s existing entrances, each with a different visual identity. Entrances connect to dining, fashion, entertainment districts and the last ties the interior mall to a new outdoor lifestyle wing featuring a new Whole Foods Market.
A major planning challenge was integrating the new Whole Foods Market store with the mall. Whole Foods was committed to the project but had “locked in” their location, meaning the designers could do anything as long as they didn’t move or adjust the store’s footprint. The design team studied several hybrid mall schemes in coming up with a solution. Their task was to first determine if, and then how, to promote the cross traffic between the interior mallscape and the new exterior attractions. This is not a lifestyle-tenant exterior veneer but a true hybrid mall that responds to market needs at many levels and broadens its appeal to being more than a typical regional shopping destination.
Each exterior plaza showcases differing architecture, yet similar palettes of colors and tones, patterned concrete and street furniture help unify its identity to the whole. The style is a distinct modernism of clean forms and silhouettes and eschews the recent trend of faux small townscape that does not always work well for this format.
The material palette harmonizes the varying elements and locations. For example, the Whole Foods Market facade is comprised of natural earth tones of brick, with wood slats in a metal trim frame and allows for sun shading on its expansive curtain wall. This detail is counterbalanced by a sleek vent structure on the opposite end of the plaza that houses the parking ventilation system and emergency exit for a 350-car underground garage. The façade materials on adjacent tenants include granite, marble, EIFS, brick and stone and each tenants space uses a shared material from one another so that the overall elevation has a design interplay.
The success of this project has yielded a dynamic tenant mix that uniquely positions Plymouth Meeting Mall. The $39.6 million redevelopment reinterprets the past 50 years of retail development and design evolution; from the neighborhood center to the enclosed mall and now the open-air lifestyle center.
By providing a broad lineup of fashion, home goods, fast casual and sit-down dining, services and a renowned specialty market, coupled with a stylish architectural program, the new Plymouth Meeting Mall reestablishes the center as a fresh, exciting and engaging community amenity that hearkens back to its original vision.
Project Name: Plymouth Meeting Mall (expansion)
Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pa.
Square Footage: 100,000 square feet
Architects: CREATE Architecture Planning & Design
General Contractor: IMC Construction
Site/Civil Engineer: Bohler Engineering Inc.
Structural Engineer: Meyer Consulting Engineers Corp.
MEP Engineer: Omdex Inc.