South Jersey Mall History: Burlington Center Mall

this story was last updated in April 2021

Exterior entrance of the Burlington Center Mall in 2018 (photo by Mike Kalasnik)

Fast Facts

  • Opened in 1982
  • Closed in 2018
  • Located in Burlington Township, New Jersey (Burlington County)
  • Developer: The Rouse Company
  • Owner: Clarion Partners
  • Number of Floors: 2

Anchors

Sears

1982–2018

Strawbridge & Clothier

1982–2006

JCPenney

1996–2014

Macy’s (former Strawbridge’s)

2006–2010

The Beginning

Burlington Center was built in a quiet, rural area of New Jersey, located about four miles away from the Burlington-Bristol Bridge and eleven miles from the Moorestown Mall.

The center was developed by The Rouse Company, who also developed the Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill, The Gallery at Market East (now Fashion District Philadelphia) in Philly and Echelon Mall (now Voorhees Town Center) in Voorhees. It was opened in 1982, which sparked a retail boom in Burlington Township and Mount Holly.

The two original anchors were Strawbridge & Clothier and Sears. The aesthetics in the mall consisted of dark brown/red-tile floors, large skylights across the ceiling, potted plants and a fountain in front of Strawbridge’s with a large statue of a boy riding an elephant.

Petal the Elephant statue in front of Strawbridge’s (photo from Haddonfield United)

Though in a rural area, the mall survived through the 1980s and 1990s with locals and visitors coming from Philadelphia.

The 1990s

1996 — A JCPenney was added as a third anchor. The new building was 103,000 square feet.

1999 — Jager Management acquired the mall for $10.5 million. When Burlington hit its peak, it operated three department stores and 100 retailers and restaurants.

The 2000s

After the turn of the new millennium, Burlington Center began a slow decline. National retailers began closing and local mom and pop stores would briefly fill the empty spaces.

Deserted wing of the Burlington Center (photo by Jason Blatt)

2006 — Strawbridge’s was converted to Macy’s and remained in operation until 2010. The building remained vacant after Macy’s closed.

January 13, 2007 — A gang-related incident occurred in the mall, which involved 20 members. The mall had to be closed early.

The 2010s

The struggles continued for the mall into the 2010s, with Moonbeam Capital Investments purchasing the mall at an auction for $4.4 million.

Abandoned Radio Shack surrounded by empty stores. (Photo from NBC10/WCAU)

2014 — JCPenney went out of business, which left Sears as the last remaining anchor. Also, rumors began circulating that there were plans to redevelop the mall. The plan was to demolish the Macy’s and JCPenney buildings to be replaced with an outdoor shopping center. Sears, who was a property holder at the center, delayed the negotiations and the plans fell through.

Towards the end of the 2010s, the mall was mostly deserted. Bath & Body Works, Gymboree and Foot Locker stayed open, though few national retailers remained. The food court was empty with nothing to eat. At the end of 2017, two non-profit stores were asked to leave the mall.

Abandoned escalators in the former Strawbridge’s / Macy’s (photo from NBC10/WCAU)

Early 2018 — A frozen water pipe burst inside of the mall and caused extensive damage. This forced the mall to shut its doors. Sears, which was not owned by the mall, remained open during the closure.

May 2018 — Sears announced it would be closing its Burlington Center location in September of 2018. It was the last open tenant at the mall. The Sears building was later used as a storage facility for a short period of time.

Exterior of the former Sears at Burlington Center (photo from Dead and Dying Retail)

2019 — Clarion Partners purchased the mall from Moonbeam for $20.2 million, plus $1.8 million for the Sears building. Clarion announced plans to demolish the mall and convert it for industrial use.

February 2019 — The famous Petal the Elephant statue in the Strawbridge’s court was purchased by the Arts Guild New Jersey and removed from the mall in February of 2019. The Burlington Rotary Club raised the funds. The original plan was to place the statue on the Riverfront Promenade in Burlington, New Jersey, but sculptor Zenos Frudakis suggested it would be better preserved indoors. The statue remains in storage for now.

Petal the Elephant in the deserted mall — 2019 (photo from 6ABC/WPVI)

New plans began circulating at the end of 2019 for redevelopment plans. The new proposal was to include retail, restaurants, housing and large warehouses.

The 2020s

As the pandemic ravaged 2020, redevelopment plans were quiet for the deserted mall property.

March 2021 — A construction crew began to demolish the 800,00 square foot shopping mall

Check out this drone video of the demolition

Fixtures sitting in the center court after the removal of Petal the Elephant (photo by Salvatore Amadeo / Quite Studios)

June 2021 — A Maryland firm announced plans for the redevelopment of the mall property. The project is known as “The Crossings” and would include 100,00 square feet of retail space, which would include shops, restaurants, medical facilities across seven new buildings.

My Final Thoughts

Sadly, we are seeing the demise of the shopping mall. While Burlington Center struggled and eventually became abandoned, the Voorhees Town Center (former Echelon Mall) is suffering the same fate with empty stores and an uncertain attempt to redevelop the mall for a second time. Malls of the future will not look the same as we are used to, unfortunately.

Thank you for reading this story!

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