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by Eileen Smith

Cherry Hill Mall, the oldest enclosed shopping center east of the Mississippi, is poised to show off a glamorous $218 million makeover.

The 48-year-old mall has undergone a cosmetic face-lift, as in marble corridors, wood-wrapped columns and leather seating groups, as well as voluptuous enhancements, as in a wildly anticipated Nordstrom and a bistro row of restaurants.

“We think the work we’ve done at Cherry Hill will make it a trophy property,” said Joseph Coradino, president of services for Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), owner of the iconic shopping center.

In a challenging retail climate, the project is the most expensive and expansive mall redevelopment PREIT has taken on. Coradino said the upgrade was necessary in order to maintain Cherry Hill’s status as South Jersey’s marquee mall.

“The pieces of the mall were solid but time had passed it by,” he said. “It was dreary, run-down and utilitarian.”

Nathan Isbee, an analyst who covers PREIT for Baltimore-based Stifel Nicolaus, said Cherry Hill has built a powerful customer base over decades.

“Even before the redevelopment, it was the best mall in PREIT’s portfolio,” he said. “Most of the dominant malls in any market are older malls that have evolved.”

The key component of Cherry Hill’s transformation is the opening of a 138,000-square-foot Nordstrom on Friday. Nordstrom will anchor the two-level, 144,000-square-foot Grand Court with a soaring atrium, skylights and an opulent mosaic floor in a cherry blossom motif.

Retailers will include a 12,000-square-foot Urban Outfitters, to debut in July, as well as J. Crew, expected to launch in April. Coach, the Gap, Steve Madden, American Eagle and Johnston & Murphy will expand their existing stores and relocate to the wing.

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