STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — “Was it worth the wait?” asked Travis Noyes, Empire Outlets senior vice president, at a sneak peek celebration party for Staten Islanders at New York City’s first outlet mall on the St. George waterfront on Wednesday evening.
Seven years in the making, Empire Outlets — officially opening for shoppers Thursday, May 16 — hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony that was attended by 11,300 people, according to Empire Outlets.
The project, which was proposed by BFC Partners in 2011, broke ground in April 2015, and since then, has had its share of construction delays.
“Despite strong headwinds, we were able to overcome substantial obstacles to open this extraordinary center in the face of countless naysayers and critics,” said Don Capoccia, principal of BFC Partners, developer of Empire Outlets.
“We’ve heard time and time again that Staten Island is the forgotten borough. Well, today, that narrative changes with the opening of Empire Outlets,” he added.
Said Councilwoman Debi Rose (D-North Shore): “This is tenacity and persistence personified. I know getting here was not easy. Seven years ago you [BFC Parters] came to the city with something great; something New York City has never seen before.”
Capoccia said his company has invested $650 million in the Staten Island waterfront. In addition to the shopping mall and waterfront esplanade, storm protection is built into the mall to prevent damage, like that which occurred in the area during Hurricane Sandy.
The Advance previously reported the cost of the project has been estimated at $304 million.
Said Joseph Ferrara, principal of BFC Partners: “As a Staten Island resident, this project has been particularly exciting for me. And Empire Outlets will be an exciting tourist destination. The next year is going to be extremely exciting….I really look forward to seeing the millions of visitors get off the ferry and come to Empire Outlets.”
New York Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state allocated BFC partners $66 million in subsidies to develop the outlet mall.
“We think that money was well-spent,” she said. “I’d like to quote from my favorite baseball movie — if you build it, they will come.”
1,200 NEW JOBS
By mid-summer there will be 1,200 new jobs created at Empire Outlets, said Capoccia. Already employed at the center are 600 people, he said.
While touting the obstacles overcome by BFC Partners to have the project come to fruition, Borough President James Oddo mentioned future traffic issues the outlet mall will bring to the area.
“This is what we do in life — we balance the good with the bad. …Despite the infrastructure challenges we will have outside on these roads, this is a very good thing for Staten Island,” said Oddo.
“To Don, Joe and the BFC team, thank you for your persistence in making this a reality,” he added.
Various other public officials praised the new outlet mall.
“There were so many naysayers; so many people who said it couldn’t be done,” said State Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island/Brooklyn). “We now have a beautiful development. We now have a connection between Staten Island and the waterfront.”
BFC Partners announced earlier this year that the outlets would open in phases between now and the summer, with Nordstrom Rack — one of the shopping center’s major anchors — launching the first week of July.
Stores that were open for the sneak peek included:
Banana Republic Factory Store, Brooks Brothers Factory Store, Columbia Factory Store, Old Navy, Gap Factory Store; H&M, Jockey, Nike Factory Store, Starbucks, U.S. Polo Assn, and Cotton On, Wetzel’s Pretzels, Samsonite and Francesca’s.
SERIES OF DELAYS
Initially set to open in 2016, the project’s launch was pushed back to Black Friday 2017. In early 2017, the opening date was pushed to March 2018, and then to this fall, and later to April 2019.
Most recently, the project’s developer, BFC Partners, said more time was needed to allow additional retailers to open at the same time at New York City’s first outlet mall.
PARKING TO OPEN THURSDAY
Opening on Thursday will be the vast majority of the 1,200 spot parking garage. The shopping center includes 780 spots that are reserved for commuter parking, according to Empire Outlets.