The Reading Station Outlet Center
Around 1992, 8 million people used to shop the Reading area outlets each year. People would drive from near and far to shop in the old knitting and textile mills that were converted into more than 300 outlet stores. The number of shops was among the reasons the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office dubbed Reading/Berks County "The Outlet Capital of the World." But by 1992 most of the shoppers were being drawn to the Wyomissing Outlets. In an effort to draw more shoppers to Reading the city loaned the Vanderbilt Properties and DKM Properties $1.7 million to construct an upscale retail shopping center at 6th and Spring Streets, Reading, PA.
The shopping center, named the Reading Station, was designed to be an outlet that sold upscale items in a modern facility. The Reading Station Outlet Center cost nearly $34 million to build. It opened in 1992. City officials envisioned trolley’s running between the station and the downtown shopping district so shoppers could eat lunch and visit the center city merchants. Plans were also made to build a hotel next to the Reading Station.
West Point Pepperell occupied the entire third floor of the complex. With escalators and food courts, the complex had more than a dozen stores at its peak. But the partnership lost control of the complex in 1995, when its failure to repay $11.3 million of its $17 million mortgage caused the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce to take over.
In October 1996, City Council agreed to write off the $1.7 million loan so the bankrupt 150,000-square-foot facility could be sold to a new owner, Spring Street Limited Partnership, in 1997. No money was ever repaid. Spring Street unsuccessfully tried to bring in new stores.
In 1998, the outlet complex had leases for only seven of its 44 spaces. That dwindled to just three in 2000. In 2000, the Reading Station was sold for $2.3 million to the Douglas Development Co. from Washington. The president of Douglas Development Co. tried to fill the Reading Station with retail stores but in the end the Reading Station became an empty shell of a dream. By 2004 the main tenant of the Reading Station was a PriceRite. The rest of the site is mostly dormant.