All-year outdoor restaurant seating is coming to the Moorestown Mall.
The zoning board unanimously approved PREIT’s plans for outdoor seating at Osteria by Marc Vetri, Corner Bakery and Firebirds Wood Fired Grill.
According to Tom Ford, director of community development, outdoor seating for Panera Bread, Al Dente, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Elevation Burger was approved in the beginning of the year. This is first time the Zoning Board had to make a decision on three restaurant plans at once.
Zoning officer Peter Clifford said it was the largest application he has seen during his 14 years in Moorestown.
The plans presented at the July 16 meeting were detailed “from the table configuration to the canopies and the hours of operation.” Clifford said PREIT’s attorney outlined plans for each restaurant, making it easier for the board to review and decide, as well as for the residents to understand.
Each plan is different, complementing the theme of the restaurant and the guidelines set by the municipal land use regulations and the mall’s master plan, he said.
“What is created is fitting to the mall, and care is taken in what is created by that venue — that it’s not just a table and chairs outside,” Clifford said.
Outdoor restaurant seating has appeared in area malls including PREIT-owned Cherry Hill Mall, The Voorhees Town Center, The Promenade in Marlton and more.
“No type of dining like this has ever been offered [in Moorestown]. The presentation made … alluded to the fact that Moorestown Mall is now up to par with surrounding malls,” he said.
According to Ford, Firebirds is looking to add 44 outdoors seats, Osteria 26 seats and Corner Bakery 30 seats. Outdoor landscaping was also included in the plan and each restaurant will have heating lamps for customers to keep warm while dining outside, Clifford said.
PREIT would be able to move forward with the outdoor seating constructions as soon as July 17, but at a risk. Clifford said there is a 45-day appeal period after publication. Someone could appeal the plans to the zoning board in that time. This law is the same for all variances presented to the board.
The board and PREIT made sure all areas, including something as minute as checking to see if the restaurants would use disposable plates and utensils, which might cause issues with trash, the location of the tables and if any issues would arise with traffic.
Clifford said PREIT covered all areas in its plans, even in the landscaping to help add to the dining atmosphere and deterring the traffic from becoming cumbersome to the experience, as well as the mall’s parking and traffic situation. He said PREIT’s traffic engineer ensured there would be no issues of congestion under the presented plans.
Ford and Clifford said the zoning board’s engineer would still have to review and approve landscaping plans going forward.
The consumption of alcohol in Moorestown was limited to East Gate and the Moorestown Mall last year after a court ruling deemed the restriction to the mall only was illegal. But there was a positive outcome to council’s decision to extend the restriction zone.
“It is something that most want with their dinners. It offers now the affordability of having a glass of wine with you dinner. It’s something that is attractive to a lot of people,” Clifford said.
“We collectively, as a township, endorse [the outdoor seating]. It is a trend and a way we envision successful restaurants.”