cartier polo Officials hope outlet mall will invigorate downtown
Friday, Aug.An outlet mall that city leaders hope will be the catalyst for downtown Las Vegas redevelopment greeted shoppers this morning during a “soft opening” aimed at giving the stores time to work the kinks out.Instead, the opening was hectic, as contractors tried to finish up their work in stores and competed for space with shoppers and reporters. today.Honolulu resident Sharon Ming, 55, said she was thrilled the mall, set for a grand opening Aug. 8, opened before she leaves for home Saturday.”This is a nice mall; they will get a lot of business from people from Honolulu,” she said.Las Vegas resident Mary Bobier sat eating scones and drinking coffee with her niece, 12 year old Lindsay Wilson from Chicago. Bobier said her niece has been to all of Las Vegas’s major grand openings in recent years, including the Aladdin and Paris casinos. Bobier said the outlet mall is no different.Bobier said she will primarily shop at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets rather than Belz or the Las Vegas Fashion Outlets in Primm.”It’s close, number one, and I’ve lived in Chicago Downtown Las Vegas is not scary to me,” she said.Wilson, in between sips of her iced coffee, said she thinks people will be more willing to go downtown now.”Downtown will be more popular,” she said. “People will tell their friends and it will start big things.”Many skeptical industry experts are watching closely to see if in fact the outlet mall will meet officials’ lofty expectations, expectations that mirror the opinion of Wilson.It has been more than a year of anticipation for city officials and shoppers alike, waiting for Chelsea Property Group, in partnership with Simon Property Group, to open its 435,000 square foot Las Vegas Premium Outlets on what was formerly barren railroad land.The mall is one in a series of redevelopment efforts by the City of Las Vegas over more than a decade to revive the struggling downtown area.”It’s the beginning of the downtown renaissance,” Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said. “It’s the first real brick and mortar that we have under my administration that will cause people to come downtown.”Chelsea Property officials estimate that the outlet will annually attract more than 8 million shoppers, locals and tourists alike, to the $95 million center near Interstate 15 at Grand Central Parkway.To help lure some of those shoppers downtown, the city will begin bus service this week that will shuttle people to and from the outlet mall, Fremont Street and other downtown attractions.While experts expect the outlet mall to be successful, it’s doubtful it will be a magnet helping the rest of downtown, said George Connor, senior vice president with commercial real estate brokerage Colliers International Las Vegas’ retail division.”The majority of the people going to the mall will get back in their car and go back to the Strip,” he said. “I don’t see a great crossover.”Despite doubts as to whether it will attract business to the rest of downtown, the opening of the Las Vegas Premium Outlet Center may be one of the biggest successes for the city.Redevelopment of Lewis Avenue was supposed to have started more than a decade ago when a Japanese developer announced plans to build the Minami Tower where the federal courthouse now stands at 333 Las Vegas Blvd. South. Existing buildings at the site were demolished and a huge hole was dug for the tower’s basement and foundation.The developer wound up giving the nearly 6 acre site, dubbed the “Minami Hole,” to the city after funding for the project failed in the early 1990s. In 1997 the city cleaned up the site so that the $100 million federal courthouse could be built there. The George Building was completed and occupied in July 2000.Other redevelopment projects include the Charleston Plaza Shopping Center, Fremont Street Experience and Neonopolis. Neonopolis has suffered with high tenant turnover since it opened in May 2002.One reason downtown revitalization may not have been as successful as some had hoped is competition from all the other investment and development opportunities in the Las Vegas Valley, said Jeremy Aguero, a principal with research firm Applied Analysis.”As long as there is the opportunity to develop as (developers) can, a lot of money will not find its way to redevelopment,” he said.Goodman said he didn’t want to talk about past projects to revitalize downtown because they were part of initiatives begun in prior administrations.”I just care about when I became mayor,” he said.Goodman said the World Market Center, a wholesale furniture market scheduled to be built by 2005 on 57 acres along with a new downtown IRS building and museum in the downtown post office all indicate the area is moving in the right direction and that investors are starting to take notice.The World Market Center and the Las Vegas Premium Outlets fall under a tax increment finance district in which 18 percent of taxes generated by the two projects will be funnelled to provide affordable housing, while the remaining tax money is split 50/50 with the respective property owner and the city, contingent on the property owner putting the money back into the infrastructure.