On Tuesday, August 16, hundreds of shoppers, commuters, and 9/11 families gathered for the opening of Westfield‘s newest shopping complex.
The mall, located in the World Trade Center’s concourse inside the Oculus, a major mass-transit hub within the Financial District, is a modern example of how mall developers – such as Westfield and rivals Simon Property Group and General Growth Properties – are trying to reinvent malls in an era of decline, reports Fortune.
In an effort to make the WTC mall stand out in a city full of shopping opportunities, Westfield’s developers lined up popular tenants such as Eataly, the Italian-themed food and beverage marketplace, an Apple store, and Ford’s upcoming Fordhub, a showroom (not a dealership) for innovations.
“When you look at how many people now live in the neighborhood, how many commuters work in the neighborhood and how many tourists now are coming to the memorial, emotionally it was a no-brainer and financially it was a no-brainer,” Apple’s Retailing Chief, Angela Ahrendts, said at the store’s opening Tuesday.
The 365,000-square-foot center will feature more than 100 stores once it’s completely open. According to Fortune, developers included 50 stores exclusive to this Westfield location.
“This lends itself to doing things way beyond what we’ve done typically in the traditional malls we currently own,” Operations Chief for Westfield U.S., Bill Hecht told Fortune in an interview at the opening ceremony, which included a color guard and a variety of performances. The location itself is a “symbol of hope, opportunity, progress and perseverance,” Hecht continued.
“Westfield is profoundly proud to be part of this project and to introduce new experiences and energy to Lower Manhattan. We are incredibly excited to open our doors to our neighbors, New York and tri-state area families, visitors, and all of our partners on August 16th.”
Westfield estimates 15 million travelers will visit the area from the U.S. and around the world next year to see the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and any other nearby places of interest.
“A lot of people are coming here every day,” Marine Jegard, public relations manager for Aldo footwear company told CNBC. “It’s the location of the future.”
More than 60,000 residents live within blocks of the WTC area, approximately three times the number right before the attacks. The former shopping mall in the WTC was one of the most successful properties in the world, Vice Chairman of the Lansco Corp., a real estate advisory firm, Robin Abrams told the Chicago Tribune.
For many, the mall’s opening marked an important milestone in continuing Manhattan’s recovery from 9/11. “It’s about rebuilding and giving people hope so we can move on,” Keith Bracker, a filmmaker from New Jersey, told AM New York.
Westfield refused to post signage on the side of the mall that faces the 9/11 memorial. “We have huge respect for this site,” Hecht said.
The skylight of the Oculus — meant to symbolize the image of a dove released from a child’s hand — will open on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, allowing a slice of the open New York sky to shine in.
As far as safety precautions go, Port Authority spokesman Joe Pentangelo said that uniformed police and private security will be present at the mall.
“As with any high-profile public location and transit center, there are extensive security measures that have been put in place with law enforcement and others,” Westfield developers said in a statement.
The Westfield World Trade Center Mall is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays.
[Photo by AP Photo/Mark Lennihan]