The 700,000-square-foot SoNo Collection mall is still on target to open on Oct. 11, but most of its tenant stores will not be ready in time for the premiere.
Brookfield Properties – which acquired the mall following its August 2018 acquisition of the property’s original developer, the real estate investment trust GGP Inc. – hosted a media tour of the retail center on Sept. 24. The tour did not include the SoNo Collection’s two anchor stores, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom.
Matt Seebeck, senior general manager for Brookfield Properties, said that while the SoNo Collection is approaching its opening with 90% of its retail spaces leased, many of the new tenants will be arriving weeks or even months after the mall’s debut.
“On October 11 Nordstrom will be opening with a select group of retailers,” he said. “All of our public realm space and the parking will be open for customers to enjoy. We are here to support our retailers, and there will be some retailers that will be open. We will have a rolling opening, with more stores opening through the end of the year and into the first quarter of 2020.”
The developer declined to provide a complete list of the retailers that will be part of the SoNo Collection, although the media tour passed future locations displaying signs for such brands as Abercrombie & Fitch, Bath and Body Works, Kay Jewelers, Pandora, Sephora and Victoria’s Secret. However, none of the stores were near completion and several appeared to be at the beginning stages of the construction process.
The media tour found the interior of the mall and its rooftop SoNo Garden as ongoing works in progress, with floors covered by dusty tarps and contractors engaged in plastering, painting and wire installations. Brian Bacik, regional vice president for development, said the construction aspect of the project employs 625 people per day, with labor taking place around the clock and on weekends. Bacik also emphasized the mall’s generous parking opportunities.
“The project has eight different levels on which you can park,” he said. “We have four full parking levels underneath and three levels of main mall. The east side of the project has eight levels – one at each of the four levels below the mall, one of each level of the mall and a mezzanine level between levels one and two.”
While the SoNo Collection has a surplus of parking spaces, it is conspicuously missing a feature that is often the most popular gathering space in other malls.
“We don’t have a food court as part of our general offerings,” Seebeck said. “We have restaurants on West Avenue that are facing the street and we have fast casual opportunities on the third floor of the shopping center.”
In lieu of using a food court as a communal gathering space, Seebeck said, the SoNo Collection is offering different areas that will encourage people to use the mall for nonretail purposes. These spaces include the “magnificent room” that can double as a coworking space and an event hall and the SoNo Garden, which Seebeck envisioned as a location for family film screenings and outdoor yoga classes.
Seebeck noted that the SoNo Collection is aiming at the year-end holiday season with different approaches to the mall experience, including having a wandering Santa who will interact with shoppers and allow photographs to be taken without charging a fee. He also previewed a yet-to-be-installed interactive chandelier installation where the lights will change colors when people walk under their glow.
“Ask yourself: Have you seen a mall like this when you were a kid?” Seebeck asked.