Harrisburg, Pa. — St. John Properties Inc. has unveiled plans for the redevelopment of Harrisburg Mall, a 1 million-square-foot regional mall located in the Swatara Township section of Dauphin County. The company plans to build Swatara Exchange, a mixed-use development consisting of multi-use commercial space and supporting inline retail and retail pad sites.
The mall will undergo an extended demolition program that is expected to conclude in 2025. The existing Bass Pro Shops and Applebee’s Grill + Bar restaurant will remain operational, and the former Toys ‘R’ Us building will be marketed for a new use.
At full build-out, Swatara Exchange is expected to support up to 1,000 new jobs in its nearly 550,000 square feet of space and contribute approximately $1 million in additional tax revenue annually. Twelve new buildings, including two retail pad sites, will be constructed in total.
“When formulating our long-term strategy for Harrisburg Mall, we factored in trends occurring throughout the retail industry, changing consumer shopping patterns, the local real estate landscape and the greater Harrisburg economic climate,” says Lawrence Maykrantz, president and CEO of St. John Properties.
The developer plans to build 13,600 square feet of single-story office space and nearly 200,000 square feet of single-story, multi-use flex/R&D space. The part-office and part-industrial space will have the capacity to be separated into bays, which can be fully customized based on the users’ requirements. Features will include 16- to 18-foot ceiling heights, 30-foot-wide bays, 80- to 100-foot building depths, rear service courts for truck loading and abundant parking. Potential users include professional services, medical, wholesale, light manufacturing and distribution, scientific research and early childhood education.
The balance of the Swatara Exchange plan includes the development of nearly 50,000 square feet of complementary inline retail space and two new retail pad sites that will be marketed to restaurants, financial institutions, medical providers, convenience stores and other users to support the daily needs of the surrounding community and tenants.
Demolition of the remaining structures is scheduled to begin in March 2024 and to be completed in just over one year. Mass grading will follow and is scheduled for completion by late 2025. Phase I building construction and tenant build-outs will extend from fall 2025 to fall 2026. This activity coincides with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s ongoing infrastructure improvements, including the reconstruction of the Eisenhower interchange designed to improve ingress and egress to Swatara Exchange.
When St. John Properties acquired Harrisburg Mall in a joint venture partnership in mid-2012, Macy’s, Bass Pro Shops and Great Escape Theatre anchored the property. The company added national retailers 2nd & Charles and Destination XL in 2013, and executed a $1 million renovation and improvement program that focused on the installation of new signage and exterior landscaping. Macy’s added its Macy’s Backstage concept in 2016, but as part of a national closure strategy, ceased operations in 2020. Regal Entertainment shuttered its Harrisburg Mall theater location in 2021.
“While some shopping centers continue to perform successfully, the pandemic and rise of e-commerce have taken their toll on enclosed malls. It has become apparent that the best use for this property isn’t pure retail, but rather a business community with a diversified mix of uses,” says Maykrantz.
St. John Properties is a Baltimore-based commercial real estate development and management company with a national portfolio valued at more than $5 billion. The company has developed more than 23 million square feet of flex/R&D, office, retail and warehouse space, and has investments in over 3,000 residential units.
— Kristin Harlow