Thousands of shoppers turned out for opening day for Charlotte Premium Outlets, the city’s first new mall in almost 10 years.
The 400,000-square-foot Steele Creek mall, at 5404 New Fashion Way, is a partnership between Greensboro-based Tanger Factory Outlet Centers and Simon Property Group, owner of SouthPark and Concord Mills.
“Get your credit cards ready,” Mark Silvestri of Simon Property Group told shoppers gathered for the ribbon-cutting. Also attending was Gov. Pat McCrory, who said: “What an incredible opportunity right here in Charlotte...More than anything else, it’s creating jobs.”
Saks 5th Avenue Off Fifth is the mall’s anchor tenant, and other retailers at the center will include Le Creuset, Kate Spade New York, Crocs and Sunglass Hut. The mall employs 900 people.
By late morning, Kelly Sanders, who lives in nearby Berewick, had been to Lane Bryant, NY&C, Gap, Banana Republic and Michael Kors. Sanders, an elementary school counselor in Fort Mill, planned on shopping for a few more hours, looking for “back to work clothes.”
She said lines in stores were moving quickly: “Every store has a ton of people to help you.” She said her fiance, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher, has a part-time job at the Nike store. “We’re planning a wedding, so all the extra income helps,” she said.
James Jones, a retired police officer, arrived at 6 a.m. to stand in line at Nike. Jones said he came for the giveaways. “I think that's why everyone’s here,” he said.
In the event that the mall’s 2,000 parking spots fill up this weekend, mall officials have arranged shuttle rides to overflow lots. People will be able to park their cars at Berewick Elementary School, Radiant Church and Shopton Square Shopping Center, with shuttles operating from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Elmer Branstetter, a retired software developer from Mint Hill, sat at the indoor food court at midday guarding the Coach purse that his wife, Tina, bought for 50 percent off. He was taking a break while his wife continued to shop.
He and his wife parked in a satellite lot, but instead of taking the shuttle they walked the 5 minutes to the mall. “When she's ready (to leave), I'm ready,” he said.
To accommodate traffic, officials have widened Dixie River Road by two lanes and have added a traffic light near Dixie River and Shopton roads. Officials also added a second traffic light at Shopton Road and New Fashion Way.
Charlotte Premium Outlets is the first new mall to be built in Charlotte since Northlake Mall opened in 2005.
The mall’s developers project it will bring in annual sales totaling $140 million, generating $10 million in annual sales tax.
The complex could grow in coming years. When Charlotte City Council approved the mall’s rezoning last year, it allowed up to 125,000 more square feet for growth at the mall and a future 120-room hotel on the Charlotte Premium Outlets site.
Charlotte and Mecklenburg County are helping with the construction costs. The city and county agreed to give the mall developers $5.1 million in tax rebates over the next 10 years to help offset the cost of building new infrastructure at the site.
Mall general manager Sharon Campbell was glad to see the big day come.
“I really want to take the time and walk around and see people’s faces and enjoy their excitement,” she said. “I hope that everybody walks away today saying ‘wow!’”
Jennifer Grubba, store manager of Loft Outlet, said business was brisk – and she was expecting the afternoon would be even busier.
“I’ve prepared for this afternoon being crazy insane,” said Grubba, who transferred from the store’s Concord Mills location. “I think a lot of people will take off work early to shop.”