Bloomingdale’s set to open during disturbing week for The SoNo Collection

The SoNo Collection, Wednesday.

A new kiosk next to Bloomingdale’s, Wednesday in The SoNo Collection.

NORWALK, Conn. – The SoNo Collection’s “rolling opening” hits a major milestone today with the long-awaited Bloomingdale’s debut.

Bloomingdale’s will open at 10 a.m., followed by H&M at noon. Other stores are likely opening as well, as Norwalk Chief of Economic and Community Development Jessica Casey predicted last month that other retailers will likely debut in conjunction with Bloomingdale’s. Mall developer Brookfield Properties has already profited by selling a majority interest to investors. And Nordstrom is doing quite well, according to one of its salesmen.


Openings Thursday

The 717,000 square foot mall officially opened Oct. 11 with Nordstrom and a handful of smaller stores. Mall General Manager Matt Seebeck in September had explained that a rolling opening would continue “into the first quarter of 2020.”

Thursday’s expected merriment comes against the backdrop of tragic news, the death of a construction worker who fell from an elevated height early Tuesday while working on the mall’s exterior. Shoppers wandered the mall Wednesday evening with no hint of anything unusual going on, a surreal juxtaposition with the headlines: workers debuted a Caffe cart outside the Bloomingdale’s first floor entrance, just off the escalator from the street, and Clark’s employees gathered near the store’s shuttered entrance, appearing to prepare to open its doors the next morning. A similar process was going on at L’Occitane.

H&M employees adjusted mannequins behind their store’s closed entranceways, on both the first and second levels of the mall’s shopping areas.

H&M workers are visible Wednesday in The SoNo Collection.

The first 500 people in line to enter H&M will be offered an “H&M Access to Fashion Pass, valued between $10 and $300,” a press release said. “Customers in line after the first 500 shoppers will receive a $10 Access to Fashion Pass. Customers who garment recycle on opening day can also enter to win a gift card from $50 to $250 dollars.”

It’s a 19,000 square foot store and will be one of 44 in Connecticut, the release said.

“H&M has experienced a warm welcome from customers and fans in Connecticut and is happy to continue to expand its store and employee count in the state,” the release said. “The new H&M location will offer Norwalk residents a one-stop shopping destination for quality clothing, with collections for ladies and men, with a separate “shop in shop” section for accessories.  This location will also carry the H&M Kids collection for newborns to 14 year olds. No matter your personal style H&M makes it easy to always find what you are looking for by offering something for everyone.  This location will also contain a brand new H&M Home section with its own entrance.”

Coming soon is Hollister, set to open Nov. 22, according to a sign on the store. Hearst Media reports that Pinstripes, a bowling and bocce bistro, is opening Dec. 12.

There’s no sign of Apple in the mall, although a tenant fit-up permit is on file in the Norwalk Planning and Zoning Department. Casey said last month that she thinks Apple is coming to The SoNo Collection.


Nordstrom salesman loves his job

Nordstrom is doing well, an engaging salesman said Sunday.

A display case in the Nordstrom men’s department.

He had initiated conversation by playfully asking for a guestimate on designer backpacks displayed in a locked glass case on the store’s third floor, in the men’s department.

No, they weren’t $300, he said, causing jaws to drop by explaining that they were $2,600. People want them because they’re unique – there are only 10 bags like them on the East Coast, he added.

He’s sold four since the store opened a month ago and while his commission is only pennies on the dollar, he was pleased, he said. He used to work at Men’s Warehouse but is thrilled to have transitioned to Nordstrom because the chain makes money and will continue to do so, he opined, appearing to consider himself set in a good career.

The clerk said he was born and raised in Bridgeport and lives in Derby now. He has many family members in Norwalk, including a relative who lives near Norwalk Community College. Commuting to the mall is annoying but the ride home is fine, and it’s worth it, he said, expressing confidence in his growing career.

Pricey backpacks at Nordstrom.

Elsewhere on the floor, a store clerk said the fur collars on Canada Goose winter coats came from coyotes. He seemed puzzled when a Massachusetts woman objected, announcing that she’d never buy a coat with real fur. The coyote fur is warm, he explained pleasantly.



Brookfield sells its interest

The SoNo Collection was planned and developed by GGP, which was bought by Brookfield Property Partners last year.

Brookfield has sold an 80 percent interest in the mall to an investment vehicle that its managing for some of its investors, Brookfield Chief Executive Officer Brian Kingston said in a public earnings conference call.

A worker installs a sign on L’Occitaine, Wednesday in The SoNo Collection.

“The philosophy was it’s actually been sold on a stabilized basis. So we’re underwriting that lease-up and getting our full development profit that we would expect for a project like this. So the sale price was based on a stabilized NOI (net operating income),” Kingston said, according to a transcript of the call.

“Stabilized value” refers to the value of a property after it reaches stabilized occupancy, the Financial Dictionary states.

Some have questioned the timing of the call, after Norwalk’s election. Brookfield is required by law to divulge financial information quarterly in a conference call with reporters. This call was held Nov. 6, one day after Connecticut’s elections. This was indeed later than the previous three third quarter conference calls.

Kingston in the Nov. 6 call said that the first several weeks of SoNo Collection “operations have been extremely successful with consumer traffic in the tens of thousands and several of our retailers reporting sales above their expectations. This type of activity can only increase as we enter the holiday shopping season.”


Death of a construction worker

Norwalk Police on Wednesday identified the deceased construction worker as 52-year-old Lorgio Jimenez-Suarez, of Astoria, N.Y.

“OSHA officials were observed examining the north side of the site, though once more, few information has been offered regarding the exact circumstances of the incident. It is believed that workers were installing components on the external facade of the building with the help of lifts when the accident happened,” the Legal Herald reports.

NancyOnNorwalk has observed workers on lifts working in several locations after the mall’s closing. They adjust overhead equipment in the parking garages onramps; they install decorative piping on the garage’s eastern façade, facing Oyster Shell Park, and they work alongside the I-95 on ramp.

USA Today calls construction one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. Construction laborers are higher on USA Today’s list than police officers.

“There were 259 deaths on the job among construction workers in 2017 – or 14.1 deaths per 100,000 full-time construction workers,” USA Today states. “Construction workers often work at great heights on scaffolding, and roughly one-third of those deaths were caused by slips and falls.”

Construction equipment sits at about 6 p.m. Wednesday alongside the I-95 on ramp off West Avenue.


Bryan Meek November 14, 2019 at 12:55 pm

The “sale” is interesting. Did Brookfield sell shares of a REIT, escaping $ millions in conveyance taxes, or did the title actually transfer in part incurring some revenue? Would anyone be shocked to find out the former is true? Norwalk for sale. I have $3, can I get 3 parking lots?

Has anyone working at the mall so far been identified as a Norwalk resident? Does the Nordstrom employee spend his pennies here or does he take them back to Derby?

Residente November 14, 2019 at 5:37 pm

Nice reporting on the sale.. Interesting that Brookfield said they made a lot of development profit equating to a return of sub 5%, odd transaction, suppose that’s their business and shows something about their outlook. Interesting to see Stop and Shop in Bridgeport sell yesterday, the Councilwoman said she hoped the new owner would meet with residents.. she said.. “let the neighborhood have a say in what goes into the neighborhood”.. That’s a wishful statement, in Bridgeport or Norwalk.

Other than the restaurants that are coming, I still haven’t heard much excitement about the mall and it’s terrible that a worker died at 2:30 am during the push to open for holiday shopping.

How was the Canada Goose clerk puzzled? Didn’t Queen Elizabeth just stop buying fur clothing and isn’t California banning animal fur products all together? At least in SoNo Coyotes are ethically trapped to wear..

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