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New Orleans opens the first downtown outlet center


For a couple years now, outlet centers have been moving from the outskirts of cities closer and closer to downtown. Howard Hughes Corp.’s Outlet Collection at Riverwalk is the first to make it all the way downtown — into the center of the newly rebuilt New Orleans.

Slated to open on Memorial Day weekend, the former 200,000-sq.-ft. Riverwalk Marketplace has expanded into a 250,000-sq.-ft. outlet center following a $70 million redevelopment.

The redeveloped center is located at the base of Canal Street and Poydras Street next to the convention center, the cruise terminal, Spanish Plaza and the Audubon Aquarium — just across the street from Harrah’s Casino and within walking distance of 20,000 hotel rooms, the Central Business District and the French Quarter. Is there a better shopping location for tourists, residents and the daytime business population anywhere?

“New Orleans is a very walk-able city,” said Mark Bulmash, senior VP, development with Howard Hughes Corp. “You can walk to shopping, to the Superdome and the French Quarter. It is very easy to get around. When we showed national retailers the rebuilt city and the walk-able dynamics, they liked it.”

In mid-May, two weeks before the grand opening, the center was 98% leased, largely by well-known national outlet retailers — many with their first Louisiana location.

Anchor tenants include Coach Factory Store, Coach Men’s Factory Store, Forever 21 and Last Call Studio by Neiman Marcus. The tenant roster includes Café du Monde, Chico’s Outlet, Clarks/Bostonian Outlet, Gap Outlet, Guess Factory Store, Hartstrings Childrenswear, It’Sugar, Kay Jewelers, Kenneth Cole Company Store, Loft Outlet, Lucky Brand, Puma, Raising Cane’s, Red Mango, Sunglass Hut Outlet, The Fudgery, Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill, Tommy Bahama, U.S. Polo Assn. and dozens of others.

More than 90% of the tenants are outlet stores.

The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk is not a case of over-storing. New Orleans has 30% fewer retail square feet of retail per capita than the national average — perhaps thanks to Katrina. Shoppers have been gathering at the neighboring convention center to take buses to the suburbs to shop. Now shoppers can bus into the city and gather at Riverwalk with city residents.

The site has housed retail shopping for nearly 30 years. It was the home of the 1984 World’s Fair. After the fair, the Rouse Company reconfigured the space into Riverwalk Marketplace. “It was doing pretty well until Katrina,” says Bulmash. “After Katrina, New Orleans fell off the radar of national retailers, and they began to leave. Local mom and pop shops moved in.”

General Growth Properties acquired the center in 2004 when it bought the Rouse Company. Later General Growth spun off Riverwalk Marketplace and other former Rouse properties into the Howard Hughes Corp.

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