J. Colaizzi's Commentary

Posted February 13, 2008 (user submitted)

The Princeton Forrestal Village was the Princeton, NJ area's answer to a need for a mall. The problem is there was no need in the first place. Princeton, NJ had always been and still is a vibrant downtown shopping area which never suffered from urban blight nor a flight to the suburbs. The Quakerbridge Mall a few miles south was doing well, and the tattered Princeton Shopping Center proved there was no need for a suburban style retail space any closer to Princeton borough.

Nevertheless a huge interchange was built by and at the expense of the developers at College Farm Road and Route 1. The complex opened in the late 1980s and included a Marriott hotel, indoor food court, two-story open air (but very nice) fake main-street style mall, nightclub/restaurant and a parking deck. The mall initially had no vacancies, and the vendors were unabashedly upscale for the Princeton clientele. Polo, a super high end stereo component dealer, and many others allowed those interested to open their wallets to the orgy of 1980s consumption. However the expected clientele continued shopping in Princeton, and within a year many vendors started to leave. The stores' managers who had been expecting a flood of high end customers was clearly frustrated and even rude to the less than affluent people who came there looking for more average suburban merchandise and prices. Some stores were replaced with less than high-end independent stores. Typical American mall chains have always avoided the mall for some reason, perhaps turned off by its open air structure. The ancillary stores such as food vendors changed very frequently, becoming less and less upscale with each passing season. The nightclub/restaurant must have gone through at least a dozen incarnations since the opening.

Within five years of opening, the mall decided to specialize in outlets, a far cry from its initial endeavors. This was successful for almost ten years. However, as the outlet craze waned, especially in New Jersey, the mall started to empty out again. The food court became quite pathetic, and the second floor of the mall was completely emptied. The hotel has always done well, as there is a huge demand for rooms in the area's Route 1 corridor. However, in 2007 the mall itself finally died. Although it closed completely, the demand for office space in the area is huge, and so it is sensibly reconstructing and rebranding itself for "retail, office, and professional" usage. The last two uses will surely be successful, and limited retail to cater to the workers and clients may see some success. However, as a shopping destination, the mall is truly dead.

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