'60s-era Palm Beach Mall to be demolished, replaced with open-air outlets

WEST PALM BEACH -- Demolition of the 1960s-era Palm Beach Mall should start in about two months as developers plan its replacement with the Palm Beach Fashion Outlets.

Down will go 1.2 million square feet of enclosed, traditional mall that sits off Interstate 95 at Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard. Up will go 1.1 million square feet of outdoor-style mall, West Palm Beach Building Director Doug Wise said. Developers have said they plan to have outlet stores and traditional retailers.

New England Development, a Massachusetts-based real estate firm, partnered with Eastern Real Estate and Lubert-Adler to buy the 80-acre mall in October for $35.5 million.

Tom Carabine, who is working with the city for New England Development, said the design guidelines and master concept plan were submitted to the city Wednesday.

With a hoped-for April start, the demolition will be carefully crafted to allow JCPenney and George's Music to remain open, Wise said.

"They've got some challenges to work through to keep Penney's open, safe," Wise said.

The new mall, an estimated $150 million project, will bring new life to the neighborhood - and jobs, Wise said.

"It's going to be a huge improvement to the neighborhood," he said.

No one is identifying the new tenants, but marketing materials used to promote the center at trade shows last year envisioned premium outlets such as Nordstrom Rack, Bloomingdale's Outlet Store and Last Call by Neiman Marcus and big-box staples such as TJ Maxx, Bed Bath & Beyond and the Burlington Coat Factory.

New England Development Chief Executive Officer Stephen Karp said last month that a separate grocery store also might be built at the outlet mall.

Originally, the new owners looked at renovating the mall, but decided there was too much competition in the enclosed mall market here, Carabine said. The new plans show an outlet center in one large block in the middle of the property with another row of stores on the I-95 perimeter of the property. JCPenney and George's Music are slated to move to the interstate side. Firestone also is staying at the mall.

"JCPenney wants to move into a new store before they give us back the old store," Carabine said. "They're not going to close at all."

The six phases outlined in preliminary site plans given to the city indicate the central block and replacement stores will be built first. Once JCPenney and George's move, that section will be torn down and more stores built along I-95.

Construction would start this fall, with the first stores opening in fall 2013 if the timeline holds.

"It's pretty aggressive," Carabine said.

So far, testing for hazards has found asbestos "in little bits, which you would expect to find in a mall this old," he said. An asbestos abatement plan will be put together once testing is complete.

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Alexandra Clough contributed to this story.

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Comments » 5

Sammy_P writes:

This mall died because of the type of shoppers...not the store. I don't know how making new stores is going to change that. Downtown WPB is dead. R.I.P.

gimmeabreak writes:

The outlet mall in Fort Perce closed. The outlets in Vero Beach are like a ghost town. With Florida's unpredictable weather, is this really a smart idea?

hobehum writes:

I would guess the Boyz in the hood are waiting for it to reopen.

Spence writes:

Why not open a gang museum or theme park instead?

Lovelyone writes:

This is just sad. I grew up at this mall (from the early 70's), being a little kid seeing Santa...the memories there. <sigh> I agree, Sammy. It's not that malls have died, it's that WPB has died...and the area has gone so far downhill to all the elements. Such a shame. =( I'm not happy about this at all. Tearing it down was not the answer...and definitely NOT an outlet mall! Outlet malls are OUT and don't last. They are a joke! Stop catering to the tourists!

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