Kravco as it pertained to the King of Prussia Mall complex entered the 1980s with expansion on its mind. The successes of the 1960s and 1970s were not to be trifled with. However, a mall that rested on its laurels was asking for trouble if it waited too long to keep up with the changes surrounding it in the volatile retail landscape. Kravco saw an opportunity to get a piece of the relatively untapped higher-income earning bracket surrounding it in the Philadelphia region. Therefore, it jumped at the chance to develop the thirty-acre tract sitting adjacent to the Plaza.
While the construction continued on the developing mall tract a lot of work went on behind the scenes in order to ensure that the township and Kravco could smooth out the complicated manner in which a shopping mall was to be developed next to a coexisting one.
On June 16, 1980, the Upper Merion Board of Supervisors approved a negotiated subdivision plan that effectively divided the lots of Bloomingdale’s and Abraham & Straus (the third department store added after the previously announced Bloomingdale’s and Bamberger’s) from the rest of the developing mall tract. As a result, Bloomingdale’s now owned the 1.85-acre plot; Abraham & Strauss owned its 2.08-acre plot. According to the board, the two department stores were signed contractually to a fifteen-year minimum agreement for operating their mall properties. Both department stores desired to own the land upon which their stores were going to be built.
On November 3, Kravco announced that they were negotiating with Sears Roebuck and Co. to move its operations into the former Korvette’s store. Korvette had earlier in the year closed down its department store operations. Leading into the holidays Korvette was only selling appliances and records in a stripped-down version of their property. Korvette had made their building available to Kravco and thus the negotiations with Sears. In the same meeting with the Upper Merion Board of Supervisors, Kravco detailed their ongoing Plaza renovations concurrent with the mall extension being built across the street. Included was an addition to the north side of the John Wanamaker store, alterations on the North Gulph Road access points and the creation of an entrance off Wills Boulevard leading into the new mall section. On December 24, 1980 Korvette opened its doors to customers for the last time. On March 12, 1981 Bamberger’s opened its twenty-first department store chain-a three-level building-as an “early bird” entry to the still-developing mall parcel across the street from the Plaza.
As the new mall inched towards completion Kravco haggled with the Upper Merion Planning Commission over the exact number of parking spaces that would or would not be required to make the onboarding process successful with the now committed Sears. On June 22, the much-delayed decision was made. The Upper Merion Board of Supervisors approved Kravco’s petition to decrease the number of parking spaces required for its shopping mall. The Plaza currently had about 12,000 parking spaces. In its victorious appeal, Kravco could now demolish most of the former Korvette building (and thus reduce some parking spaces) to accommodate the larger Sears building still to be built.
On August 6, 1981, the Court (officially named after Kravco had in the past considered naming it The Mall at King of Prussia) opened for business at 10 am. Combined, the Court (with its three major department stores and one hundred thirty shops) and the Plaza totaled seven major department stores and over two hundred fifty shops and restaurants. Together, they occupied 2,400,000 square feet of retail space. Kravco’s expectation was that the colossus mall would potentially draw from one million customers who could reach the mall in less than thirty minutes of driving time.
King of Prussia was not immune to a common retail shopping trend: a rapid-fire movement of once stable department stores in and out of the complex. On June 17, 1986, an announcement was made that seven of the Philadelphia area Gimbels department stores were to be sold. The seven stores, including the one at the King of Prussia Plaza, were to be converted into Stern’s department stores. In August, R.H. Macy & Company announced that it was dropping the Bamberger’s name on its stores and replacing it with Macy’s. Macy’s had bought the Bamberger chain from Louis Bamberger in 1929. The name change was to be effective October 7. On October 29, Strawbridge & Clothier announced it was looking to further establish itself in the Philadelphia market with the purchase of the King of Prussia and Willow Grove Abraham & Straus stores. Abraham & Straus had struggled for years in the Philadelphia region to gain a sizable customer foothold, all to no avail. By early 1987 the King of Prussia Court Abraham & Straus was out of business. The Willow Grove store closed in January of 1988.
Sources sited from “A Mall And Its Legacy: The King Of Prussia Mall” Chapter Six, “Expansion.”