WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - The changed perception of an area that pioneered the concept of the indoor, climate-controlled mall has renewed interest in a once-troubled neighborhood and opened the door for continued economic development.
Forty-six years after the Palm Beach Mall opened on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, progress there is being measured by the sound of construction crews and the promise of an outlet mall that is expected to attract popular retailers. "Stuff happened in the area, but that had nothing to do with the mall," said Robert Miller, a West Palm Beach resident.
Miller, who has lived in the same home near the mall for more than 40 years, said the concept that popularized the mall when it first opened led to its demise. "People were taking their business to the other malls," he said. "That's what caused it to go down."
Residents of the neighborhoods around the mall, he said, had also been targeted by criminals.
Elliot Cohen, a spokesperson for the City of West Palm Beach, said things had changed in the area. "Nothing gets built in that area unless it's approved by the police department from a safety standpoint," he said. "There are people in the police department that look at those plans to make sure that everything is properly lit, that the area is safe, that there aren't any pockets that could possibly become dangerous areas."
Cohen said pointed to projects in development as proof.
In addition to the Palm Beach Outlets, Cohen said a new apartment complex was being built near The Home Depot on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard.
Nearby, at the Land of the Presidents, plans had been proposed for a resort hotel and spa -- the biggest development since CityPlace in the early 2000s.
A list of tenants for the Palm Beach Outlets hasn't been released but marketing materials suggest JC Penney would continue to be an anchor tenant.
Nordstrom Rack, a Bloomingdale's outlet store, Nike, Gap and BJ's Wholesale Club are said to have expressed interest.
Last week, Whole Foods Market said it planned to open a store there next year. "We've been looking for a site that filled gap between our Palm Beach Gardens and Wellington stores," said Russ Benblatt, an executive marketing coordinator with Whole Foods Market. "With the redevelopment of the old mall, it seemed like the perfect fit; we're thrilled to be there and begin serving the Palm Beach and West Palm Beach communities."
The Palm Beach Outlets is expected to open in phases.
The first phase is expected to open in the first quarter of next year.