It’s big, splashy and opening its doors in Norwalk. The SoNo Collection mall is scheduled to open on Oct. 11, two and a half years after construction began. It is owner Brookfield Properties biggest retail project in the Northeast since an expansion a decade ago of the Natick Collection mall in Massachusetts. The three-story project features 725,000 square feet of retail space, three atriums, a bowling alley and a rooftop-level garden.
The opening comes amidst some contraction and much uncertainly at malls nationwide. According to a study by BigCommerce, 51 percent of Americans say they prefer shopping online. However, just 10 percent of the approximately $3.3 trillion in annual retail sales last year came from online transactions, according to Forrester Research, the website squareup.com recently reported. Other studies have suggested that roughly 1 in 4 malls across the country are expected to close by 2022, according to published reports, even as traditional on-line businesses are adding bricks-and-mortar locations. Brookfield Properties owns 170 shopping centers nationally.
The familiar saying in real estate, “location, location, location,” rings true for the new mall. It is at the intersection of two major highways, I-95 and Route 7, and is in the heart of Fairfield County which is, as Brookfield Properties website describes it, “home to one of the most affluent populations in the United States.” The site adds: “With 167,000 cars per day traversing this intersection, businesses will enjoy unsurpassed exposure in one of the country's most desirable markets.”
Brookfield Properties officials recently told the Norwalk Hour recently that many of the stores will be opening on a “rolling basis” in the weeks following the formal opening of the mall, as the holidays shopping season moves into full swing. Officials indicated that 90 percent of the retail space in the mall is leased. Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom are the anchors; the mall will not have a food court, but it will have several co-working spaces. Among the more than 80 retailers are to include Sephora, Pandora, and Bath & Body Works, along with a number of sit-down restaurants.
Officials describe the fiscal impact for Norwalk and Connecticut this way: “The Project is projected to generate approximately $26.6 million in sales and personal income tax revenues to the State each year, equivalent to $299.6 million over 15 years in net present value terms. An Enterprise Zone agreement will bring $2.5 million in new real estate tax revenue to the City of Norwalk for 7 years, with $5 million in revenue per year thereafter. It will become the third largest taxpayer in the City after the Enterprise Zone has phased out.”
Elsewhere in Fairfield County, another mall – this one with a considerably longer pedigree – is making moves to reaffirm its attractive retail mix. Published reports indicate that a handful of new retailers will be arriving in the coming weeks at Stamford Town Center, including a Fun Palace entertainment center, along with Seventh Sense Botanical Therapy, The Sports Fan, Kilim Designs, and Perfume World. Amidst about a dozen store closings in recent months, openings have been nearly as steady.
Visitors to the Stamford Town Center website are urged to “meet new favorites” while scrolling through a list of stores. The state’s tourism website continues to feature the mall, describing it as “not just a premiere shopping center, it is an entertainment center and has been a beloved landmark in the heart of downtown since its grand opening in 1982.”
Perhaps seeking it’s own splash, the Stamford Town Center’s Fall Festival will take place on October 27.