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Businesses Breathe New Life Into Old Outlet Center

By Kimberly Davidow
Published On: Aug 16 2011 09:07:40 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 04 2011 05:24:51 AM CDT
READING, Pa. -

It has been more than a decade since the Reading Outlet Center was a financial gold mine for the city.

Although outlet stores no longer occupy the center's buildings, developer Alan Shuman said changes have been taking place to resurrect the area.

"It is really starting to turn around the whole neighborhood," said Shuman.

In 2009, the Berks County commissioners gave $7 million of stimulus funding to the Shuman Development Group to revitalize the buildings.

After months of renovations and construction, three new businesses -- Super Dollar, Metro PCS and Save-A-Lot -- opened their doors on one of the Outlet Center lots Thursday.

Chris Fusco, district manager for Save-A-Lot, said customers were waiting anxiously to get inside.

"Ever since we've opened this morning at 8:00, the crowd just got bigger and bigger and the floor's been steady," said Fusco.

Save-A-Lot executives chose to open a grocery store after studying the ethnicity and demographics in the city, said Fusco, who added that Reading was a perfect fit.

"We knew that our clientele would predominantly be Spanish, so we wanted to make sure we had bilingual signage," said Fusco.

Shuman said he expects the remaining 10 buildings he owns to be fully leased before construction is completed and that remaining spaces are filling up quickly.

"The potential buyers are working with the city and working with a couple of different financing groups," said Shuman. "Hopefully, by the end of the year, construction will start."

"If the goal is to revitalize Reading, then this is a great step in that direction," said Fusco.