Indulging in a New Outlet

I indulged in a shopping center grand opening on May 22 – and I’m glad I did.

Themed “Indulge,” the opening event marked the official unveiling of the nation’s first truly downtown outlet center, Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, located n the heart of New Orleans, and built by Dallas-based developer Howard Hughes Corp.

The grand opening was jam-packed with media and politicians – and by hungry shoppers anxious to get their first up-close look at the 250,000-sq.-ft. redevelopment of the shuttered (and iconic) Riverwalk Marketplace.

“Any time we open a retail project in New Orleans, it outperforms,” said Rod Miller, president and CEO of the New Orleans Business Alliance.  “That speaks to the fact that we are indeed underserved.”

A lineup of outlet tenants that includes Coach Factory Store, Tommy Bahama and Last Call Studio by Neiman Marcus will help close the retail service gap in the downtown district of New Orleans.  National and local tenants are expected to draw French Quarter and cruise ship tourists, in addition to locals looking for high-quality merchandise at outlet prices.

I experienced significant déjà vu while touring the center for the first time. The flow is virtually the same as the former Riverwalk Marketplace – one of my favorite shopping haunts for many years. But besides adding another 50,000 sq. ft. of space, Howard Hughes was able to lighten and brighten the old underground feel of the former Riverwalk, and introduce modernity and style to the once-popular shopping destination.

To say that the $80 million redevelopment is being warmly welcomed by New Orleans would be an understatement. A high school band played and shoppers cheered as confetti (and mimosas) flowed. A New Orleans tourism official described the project as “our Super Bowl of shopping destinations” and, according to Louisiana’s Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, who addressed the crowd just prior to the opening, “The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk has changed the landscape of the river and the entryway to the French Quarter.” David Weinreb, CEO of Howard Hughes Corp., added that the project “represents an exciting step in the resurgence of downtown New Orleans.”

The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk was more than 99% leased at opening, and has brought 1,600 new jobs to the area. It is located at the based of Canal Street and Poydras Street next to the convention center, cruise terminal and Audubon Aquarium.

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