Today, The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk announced its collection of more than 70 stores and restaurants, which includes Last Call Studio by Neiman Marcus, Coach Factory On Sale and Forever 21. Now undergoing a $70 million renovation that will expand its footprint by 50,000 square feet, the Riverwalk is the first outlet center in a downtown area and is slated to open in late spring or early summer 2014.
"We are very excited about this catalytic project," says Brenda Canada, director of retail attraction and development at the New Orleans Business Alliance. "It's another sign of the retail growth that is occurring in the city. ... I think it speaks to the fact that the national retailers are very interested in this market."
Renovation of the property began in June. Its entire interior has been demoed, the foundation for the expansion has been poured and steel is being erected for the new mall concourse, says Mark Bulmash, senior vice president of development for the Howard Hughes Corporation. "It will be fresh, airy — a modern retail center," Bulmash says. "There will be nicer finishes than what people are used to seeing in outlet centers."
Retailers include Aerosoles, American Eagle, Cafe du Monde, Charlotte Russe, Chico's, Clarks, Crocs, Guess, Hartstrings Childrenswear, Kay Jewelers, New Balance, Gap, Raising Cane’s, Red Mango, Steve Madden, Sunglass Warehouse and Tommy Bahama. The mall is 94 percent leased.
Bulmash says this reflects a heightened national interest in New Orleans. "The city is on its way back," Bulmash says. "It took us two and a half years to get the retailers to understand the opportunity here. Early on, it was like, 'Why New Orleans?' Now it is 'Why not New Orleans?' There is a newfound excitement for the city."
“The caliber of retailers shows that downtown New Orleans has national appeal as a place to live, work and do business," says Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer. “The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk is an exciting addition to District C and the entire city."
With a mix of local brands and national chains that are new to the region, the outlet center will target both locals and tourists. "It's important for us to re-engage the local customers," Bulmash says. "In a previous life, we were no longer very appealing to local customers, but I think we have very compelling reasons to go downtown and go shopping."
With retail developments including Tiffany & Co. opening at The Shops at Canal Place and H&M opening in the French Quarter this fall, Bulmash and Canada foresee downtown re-emerging as a major shopping destination, recalling the days when women donned hats and white gloves to visit Canal Street department stores like Godchaux's, Maison Blanche and D.H. Holmes.
"After [Hurricane] Katrina, there was an impetus to spend your money locally," Bulmash says. "There's been an influx of new people to this city ... who love the bones this city has, and they want to build on it."