In case you missed the shablam of media coverage (probably because you’re an Eagles fan who was too busy daydreaming about Nick Foles and mixing up your Draino cocktail), the long-awaited Fashion District Philadelphia opened in Center City this weekend! The so-called “retail-tainment” venue, which spans three city blocks, rose from the ashes of the former, decrepit Gallery Mall in a process that took four long years to complete. This is not Mom and Dad’s shopping mall, kiddos. While the Gallery was a popular hangout spot for lounge-rat teens and moms power walking with strollers, it was full of discount stores and erred on the side of the cheap. Fashion District flips that upside down with mainstream retail stores ranging from middle-of-the-road – it has an American Eagle and an H&M – to clothing dispensaries for the well-heeled. The ribbon-cutting was Saturday. Shoppers packed the space all weekend, even though the “official” opening date is Thursday. If you still haven’t made it over, or if you want a bit of a primer before you brave the maddening crowd, here’s a bit of a primer.
Fashion District Philadelphia was developed by PREIT firm, the CEO of which considers the shopping destination to be the “last piece” towards Philly becoming the world-class city that we’ve all seen it grow to in recent years. CEO Joseph Coradino described the Fashion District as an international attraction. This is not PREIT’s first foray into making retail an entertaining experience: at their nearby Pkymouth Meeting Mall, there is a Legoland, a Dave & Busters, and a Whole Foods market. Fashion District Philadelphia is equipped for its own “retail-tainment” experiences, with pop-up space for influencers, an abundance of art by local artists, and myriad performance venues that will host the likes of Macy Gray and Emmylou Harris.
You are welcome at Fashion District Philadelphia. Yes, you. And you, and you, and you. The old Gallery had three entrances. The new venue? Twenty-one. It takes up three city blocks, as mentioned, and consists of 900,000 square feet of space. You can access the mail via SEPTA rail, as the new Jefferson Station is located right inside the mall. The presence of local art on a huge scale makes a BIG first impression. If you enter via the front doors on Market and 9th, an enormous hanging sculpture that appears from one side to be the Liberty Bell, and from the other to be William Penn. The front doors are sprayed in rainbow colors thanks to an installation called “Goniochome” set into the walls on both the left and right of the doorway. The Fashion District also screams Philadelphia. From nine immense murals by local artists, to a whole wing of the mall dedicated to Philadelphia businesses, funded by its Uniquely Philly initiative with The Enterprise Center. The inaugural tenants are The Sable Collective, South Fellini, Dolly’s Boutique, and American Hats.
You may have by now cottoned onto the fact that Fashion District Philadelphia is about so much more than retail. As yet unopened, there will be the 8-screen AMC Theater. “A movie theater?” you may scoff. “So what?” Well, let’s not forget that Center City has not had a blockbuster, first-run theater since the Sameric Theater shuttered seventeen years ago (in 2002). As if that weren’t enough of a coup, the new theater will be ground-breaking in that the seats will be programmed to move with the action of the movie. Crazy!
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Round 1, an indoor amusement park that caters equally to the young and the young at heart, with just about everything you need to have a good time with any squad: bowling, arcade games, billiards, karaoke, ping pong and darts.
There’s plenty of dining to be had at Fashion District, too. The most impressive offering, which will open soon, is City Winery. While the restaurant will serve up delicious food, the vino will be actually made on site. Coworking space, the hottest new trend in self-employment and telecommuting, will be available when Industrious opens early next year. And then there’s…
From now until the end of the year, you will have the chance to experience a strong contender for the most fun experience you’ll encounter at Fashion District – an interactive candy museum. This place is bananas. There is elaborate art (made entirely of candy) depicting celebs like Cardi B and Prince, and multiple rooms containing elaborate and somewhat surreal candy art installations. Pigs fly, mythical creatures rise up from the floor, and even the walls are made up of gigantic, multicolored sugar cubes. Did I mention that there is a marshmallow pit? I repeat: MARSHMALLOW PIT. Don’t @me with complaints that the experience was sticky or you think it’s unhygienic to jump into food, or any other downer sh!t. I don’t. want. to. hear. it. Let me live my candy heaven fantasy, please. And of course, there will be ample candy samples throughout your visit.
…there’s a creamery called Big Gay Ice Cream. The treats here, some of which feature racy or wink-wink names (the Dorothy, Salty Pimp), are house-made and to die for. The chain started life as an ice cream truck, and has since expanded to numerous locations. It has been ranked by numerous notable publications as among the best ice cream in the United States.