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The Philadelphia Inquirer
At the Macy's building in Ardmore's Suburban Square, the push-ups won't be in the lingerie section anymore.
Shuttered by the troubled department-store chain early last year, the late 1920s building is being retrofitted into what will be one of the first Pennsylvania locations for the expanding upscale health-club operator Life Time Fitness Inc.
The change comes as the venerable shopping center is refashioned to serve residents of the increasingly more densely populated Philadelphia suburb that surrounds it, within a retail environment that sees department stores struggling.
Here is an image of the Suburban Square building in 1930 from the Philadelphia Inquirer archives.
";It continues to evolve,"; Nina Rogers, real estate director for Suburban Square's owner, New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Kimco Realty Corp., said of the mall in an interview this week. ";When the Macy's building closed, it provided us with an incredible opportunity.";
March's shutdown of Macy's Suburban Square location was part of the Cincinnati-based chain's nationwide push to shore up its balance sheet by shedding expensive real estate in under-performing locations.
The Suburban Square store had been losing traffic for years to Macy's King of Prussia Mall location fewer than 10 miles away, said Steven Gartner, who markets space at the Ardmore property as a managing director with real estate services firm CBRE in Philadelphia.
Last week, Macy's announced that another store in King of Prussia's orbit, its Plymouth Meeting Mall branch, would be shuttered in another round of closures involving 68 locations.
For Kimco, the conversion of the Suburban Square Macy's is part of a $70 million renovation plan that also includes a new four-level, 625-space parking garage with ground-floor retail space and an expansion of the mall's Trader Joe's food market.
Life Time Fitness will occupy almost 79,000 square feet of the approximately 100,000-square-foot Macy's building near the mall's center, with most of the structure's remaining space going to a branch of Williams-Sonoma Inc.'s West Elm furniture chain, Rogers said.
Both are scheduled to open in October, she said.
Life Time Fitness' founder and chief executive, Bahram Akradi, said in an interview that his clubs aim to match the amenities of a high-end wellness resort, with lavish spa facilities and upscale cafes with healthy menus, in addition to classes and exercise studios.
The company currently operates more than 120 clubs across the United States and Canada, including an existing location in Mount Laurel. In addition to Suburban Square, clubs also are set to open this year in King of Prussia and Fort Washington, with more area locations planned, Akradi said.
";We love the immediate community,"; he said of the affluent Main Line neighborhoods that surround Suburban Square. ";That's exactly the customer we want to serve.";
Other previously unannounced leases at the mall include blow-drying salon Drybar LLC, scheduled to open later this year, and manicure chain Anthony Vince Nail Spa, which should open in early 2018, Rogers said.
The health club and beauty services could help Kimco boost traffic at Suburban Square substantially, drawing more frequent visits than Macy's ever could, said Shawn Howton, faculty director at Villanova University's Daniel M. DiLella Center for Real Estate.
Plans are in the works for additional multifamily projects in the vicinity that would increase the area's density and walkability even more, further boosting the ranks of potential health-club patrons and mall visitors, Howton said.
Those projects include developer Carl Dranoff's 110-unit One Ardmore proposal on a nearby Cricket Avenue parking lot and a 77-unit development at 47-65 Cricket Avenue planned by Pete Staz and Peter Spain of Core Development.
"If you want to live in the new condos, you want to be able to walk to a fitness center," Howton said. "Long term, it's probably a good part of the transformation of that space."
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