The relocated VF Outlet store will open to much fanfare this Friday in the former Designers Place building, marking the first phase of the $70 million Knitting Mills under development in West Reading and Wyomissing.
Equus Capital Partners Ltd of Philadelphia bought the former VF Outlet Center, which includes the Designers Place building, in 2016 and is transforming it into a 34-acre office and retail campus.
The complex’s name is a nod to its history as the Berkshire Knitting Mills, once the world’s largest hosiery manufacturer, which occupied the site from early 1900s until its purchase in 1969 by Vanity Fair Corp.
The VF Outlet, which had been in the Red Building in the center, relocated to the 50,000-square-foot first floor once occupied by Reading China and Glass, and has 25,000 square feet of space for stock in the basement.
Equus renovated the four-story building with a fresh, modern look and is in the process of demolishing portions of other properties on the site, including the Red and Blue buildings.
VF Outlet Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of VF Corp. has a five-year lease with the Equus, said Rick Ott, vice president of VF Outlet, which moved its headquarters to the second floor of the building today.
“The outlet will carry the same product categories that were at the Red Building, including Lee and Wrangler jeans, intimate apparel and children’s clothing,” Ott said.
Tower Health will lease space for administrative office on the third and fourth floors.
Ott said he is excited about the changes that will be happening to the former VF Outlet Center, which opened in 1971 and was the first outlet center in the nation.
“It really positions this property for another 100 years of vitality and economic prosperity,” Ott said.
“This campus was very large, and over the last decade it had become less and less densely occupied as neighboring outlets were opened in Limerick, Tannersville and Hershey and started taking business from this outlet,” he said.
A number of businesses have committed to moving onto the Knitting Mills campus.
UGI Energy Services, based in Spring Township, will move its headquarters into the Blue Building, the largest of the buildings, which is undergoing partial demolition.
Tower Health has said it plans to move into an additional building on the campus. Other businesses include Orthopedic Associates of Reading and Sly Fox Brewing Co., based in Pottstown, while a Wawa store is planned near Penn Street and Eighth Avenue.