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SoNo Collection set to ‘open’ over a period of months, into early 2020

Brian Bacik, Brookfield Properties Regional Vice President – Development, center, uses a model of The SoNo Collection to explain the project. “The project has eight different levels on which you can park,” he said. “We have four full parking levels underneath three levels of main mall. Both anchors open onto the main mall and all levels. The east side of the project, which is the parking structure that wraps under and around the main mall has eight levels. That’s one at each of the four levels below the mall, one of each of the levels of the mall and then a mezzanine between levels one and two. We also have a streetscape, 50,000 square feet of retail along West Avenue. That’s where most of our restaurant and food is concentrated.”

Brookfield Properties employees and consultants lead a tour of The SoNo Collection on Tuesday. (Harold F. Cobin)

NORWALK, Conn. — It’s 91 days till Christmas, 17 days until Nordstrom opens in Norwalk and untold days until The SoNo Collection considers itself fully “open.”

Nordstrom will open Oct. 11 along with “a select group of retailers” providing “the full SoNo experience” – public realm space and parking for “customers to come and enjoy,” mall General Manager Matt Seebeck said Tuesday. Then, a “rolling opening” will continue with Bloomingdale’s opening in November and more stores opening as the weeks go by “into the first quarter of 2020.”

The SoNo Collection is 90% leased, Seebeck said during a tour for journalists through what was described as a “fully operational construction site.” Workers buzzed everywhere, and much of the carpeting was covered by carboard. Fire alarm sirens were continually blaring and a woman’s voice warning of danger; Lindsay Kahn, Senior Manager of Public Relations & Marketing Retail at Brookfield Properties, said this was part of an ongoing inspection process.

Some stores appeared partially complete and others hadn’t begun to be worked on. A set of Stop Orders posted on the fence outside showed that some contractors had been held up from their fit-up work by a need to get the proper insurance.

A woman works on drywall, Tuesday in The SoNo Collection.

Again, Nordstrom and a “select group of retailers” are expected to open in 17 days.

“I have to say I arrived yesterday morning from Chicago and I’ve already seen great progress,” Kahn said.

Seebeck’s tour began with the parking garage, where he said customers will be guided to open spaces by green lights and warned away from taken spots by red lights. There will also be a valet available.

Brookfield Properties Director of Design Paul Madden, who has been with The SoNo Collection since its inception in 2014, explained to newbies as they looked up at one of three atriums that they were actually standing over North Water Street. The overhang, providing a main architectural feature of the mall, was won in an intense negotiation with the City for an easement to allow the use of “air rights.”

The SoNo Collection General Manager Matt Seebeck, left, helps lead the tour through the mall’s major atrium.

One of the key design elements it the sight line, Madden said, explaining that the abundant glass was part of putting the project together, giving tenants a connection with customers.

“Ask yourself if you’ve seen a mall like this when you were a kid because this is something that I think is quite spectacular,” Seebeck said.

“We’re bringing outside elements in,” Seebeck said. “This is really key.”

“We’ve taken all of our experience from 170 retail centers across the U.S. and really tried to deploy it and think forward about the future of retail, and how our design influences that,” Seebeck said. “So one of the biggest things that we’ve done here in this shopping centers, we’ve added 86,000 square feet of public realm space. So those public room spaces are gathering places.”

The City demanded that General Growth Properties (GGP), original owner of the mall, include public realm space in the property. This was a key point of negotiation.

The third floor. (Harold F. Cobin)

“As a company, we’re really focused on making sure that our space is a gathering space,” Seebeck said, explaining that there’s a “magnificent room on the second floor,” a two-story tall sculpture garden with windows facing Interstate 95, a plaza outside on the ground level and the SoNo Garden on the roof.

“There are three distinct spaces that are opportunities for the community to come in and activate,” Seebeck said. “It’s a great place for you to do some co-working and even if you were to nonprofit that could have an activity in some of these spaces.”

The rooftop area. (Harold F. Cobin)

There might be movies on the roof, where the public will have access to a “absolutely gorgeous” view of Long Island Sound, Norwalk Harbor and the barrier islands, he said.

The mall will also feature artwork curated at a “national, regional and local” level “to make sure that we get a nice cross section of our common space,” he said.

So, what about the death of retail?

“I think the best way to frame it is our CEO says, ‘Bazaar was here in 600 B.C. It will be here in 6000 A.D.,’” Seebeck said.

Ceiling drop lamps hang above the top floor of The SoNo Collection. (Harold F. Cobin)

“We found the best real estate in Southwestern Connecticut,” he said. “We found a market hole. We have the most in demand tenants in Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, and we’re really excited to offer all of those to the community, 90% leased, great community spaces, a new shopping center for the 21st century.”

November will be “an excellent month for The SoNo Collection, and for we believe for Southwestern Connecticut,” with both anchors open and “first” for Brookfield’s portfolio of 130 American shopping centers, a holiday experience with a “whispering grove” and a “bell set,” Seebeck said.

“They’re actually opportunities for young people and children of all ages to interact with some trees and whisper their holiday wishes out to the North Pole,” Seebeck explained. “We will have Santa, but we’re not going to have a traditional shopping center, Santa…Santa will actually walk through the shopping center and engage with guests. And you’ll be able to take photos with Santa throughout the center at no charge.”

 

 

 

UNTUCKit joins list of store tenants

NancyOnNorwalk’s research of applications to the Norwalk Planning and Zoning Department jives with Seebeck’s claim of “90% leased.”

A carpet sample display, explaining to workers where various carpets go. (Harold F. Cobin)

In July, when we last checked,  one calculation showed 89.9% of the mall was rented out. That’s obtained by adding up retail square footage and subtracting 180,000 square feet as concourse/public realm space from the total 717,000 square feet.

On Tuesday, there were three additional applications:

  • Café Oui, a kiosk
  • Pokelicious, a kiosk
  • UNTUCKit, a 2,253 square foot store

 

You are probably aware from a persistent advertising campaign that UNTUCKit sells men’s shirts. There’s an UNTUCKit in White Plains at The Westchester.

The updated list of stores is:

  • The space for Zara.

    Abercrombie & Fitch

  • Abercrombie Kids
  • Altar’d State
  • Apple
  • A man lays tile, Tuesday in The SoNo Collection. (Harold F. Cobin)

    Bath & Body Works

  • Barry’s Bootcamp
  • Café Oui
  • CAMP
  • Chico’s
  • EQ3
  • H&M
  • Hollister
  • J. Jill
  • Journeys
  • Painters work on the first floor. (Harold F. Cobin)

    Kay Jeweler’s

  • Lush
  • L’Occitane
  • Made in China
  • A video display decorates an elevator shaft. (Harold F. Cobin)

    Pandora

  • Pinstripes
  • Pokelicious
  • Sephora
  • Soma
  • Talbots
  • Tutti Nails
  • UNTUCKit
  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Stop work orders posted outside The SoNo Collection.

    White House Black Market

  • Yong Kang Street
  • Yard House
  • ZARA USA Inc

 

Because it’s a “smaller shopping center” at 700,000 square feet, “we’ve been able to be a little bit more selective and focus on what the customer here wants,” Seebeck said. “So one of the biggest things is we’re 20% home-driven. Housewares is a market that we particularly identified in southwestern Connecticut as the way people shop. So were responding to that.”

This article was amended at 2:12 p.m. to correct quote attributions.

The SoNo Collection General Manager Matt Seebeck, referred to as the mall’s “Mayor,” shows off the “slip ramp” inside the parking garage. This allows drivers to enter off North Water Street and make their way to the second floor parking garage.

The sculpture garden, a public realm space on the corner of West Avenue and the Interstate 95 northbound entrance ramp.

A SoNo Collection interior.

A SoNo Collection interior.

Brookfield Properties Director of Design Paul Madden shows off The SoNo Collection, Tuesday in South Norwalk.

A top floor table hosts blueprints for The SoNo Collection.

A view from the parking garage, down onto North Water Street.

The SoNo Collection General Manager Matt Seebeck, referred to as the mall’s “Mayor,” leads journalists into the mall’s interior Tuesday.

The main atrium.

A worker looks down from The SoNo Collection’s parking garage.

Part of the beehive of activity in The SoNo Collection.

A wall is tiled on the second floor of The SoNo Collection.

The North Water Street overpass.

A view out the sculpture garden.

A paint job over North Water Street.

The SoNo Collection.

The top floor of The SoNo Collection.

A first floor retail view.

The kiosk area on the third floor.

A view from the parking garage.

Trees will be planted outside the corner public realm area, Matt Seebeck said.

The Southwest plaza.

 

7 comments

Barbara Ray September 25, 2019 at 7:17 am

Looking forward to shopping at this beautiful mall…so needed. I’m hoping they have furniture stores that are needed here also.

Piet Marks September 25, 2019 at 8:59 am

Was at the Stamford Mall on Sunday for the first time in I don’t know how many years. It was essentially empty………..That said I wish the new mall success.

Diane Lauricella September 25, 2019 at 10:34 am

Terrific photos NON! Looking forward to the opening!

Many opportunities for NGO events…interested in the application process.

Note that I was not opposed to this Mall as long as due diligence was done, alternative land uses were explored, proper traffic modeling was employed and existing city restaurants and retailers were given some assistance. I attended many of the public hearings over the many years and suggested alternatives.

Several questions:

1. Will parking be free?

2. Why couldn’t City negotiate and insist upon a YMCA/YWCA/Boys-Girls Club to fulfill the original mixed-use requirement, given eminent domain and public funds were used to create this great location?

Can this needed use be explored in future? This is a good question for the upcoming election debate season…especially members of the Council Planning Committee, Chaired by Mr. Kydes.

Missed opportunity: By letting GGP, now Brookfield, propose, through their clever land use attorneys, an ill-conceived hotel instead of other allowable uses, the Common Council and its Planning Committee squandered important leverage found within its LDA, the Redevelopment Agency ‘s Land Agreement.

3. Were the number of restaurants limited? We were told that in order to help existing restaurants in SoNo and West/Wall Street prosper, the SoNo Collection would limit its food offerings and to encourage mall-visitors to venture out to many of our wonderful existing restaurants. How is that being handled?

Nevertheless, this Mall is a big deal and will play a major part in Norwalk ‘s future!
Wishing success!

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