Empire Outlets: The Biggest Thing to Hit Staten Island Is Opening This November


Last night was a bright one for developer BFC Partners.

“We’re flipping on the permanent power,” Joseph Ferrara, a partner at BFC, told Commercial Observer during a construction site tour earlier in the day to show off the last phase of construction at Empire Outlets.

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Up until that point, workers at the 1.1-million-square-foot six-building outdoor shopping center under development on the North Shore of Staten Island had been relying on generators. Permanent power is needed, Ferrara noted, for “the final inspection.”

BFC, which holds a 99-year ground lease on the eight acres that will be home to Empire Outlets, broke ground on what will be New York City’s first outlet mall in April 2015. The majority of the $352 million development—to include about 100 designer outlet retailers, restaurants, a hotel, 3.5 acres of privately owned public space and a welcome center—is now slated to open in November, after a number of “unforeseen construction delays,” Ferrara said.

Retail stores that are starting to take shape include H&M in 33,000 square feet—“the biggest footprint on the site,” as per Ferrara, a two-story 30,000-square-foot Nordstrom Rack, Nike Factory’s 13,000-square-foot retail space (plus 6,000 square feet of storage) and sister companies Old Navy (on a 13,000-square-foot lease), Gap (leasing 10,000 square feet) and Banana Republic (in 8,000 square feet).

In order to maintain the uniformity of the industrial-looking storefronts, designed by SHoP Architects and overseen by the city’s Public Design Commission, the retailers can only outfit their stores from the inside.

Empire Outlets is 74 percent leased with the hotel yet to be built and a prime restaurant space—of 8,000 square feet indoors and 10,000 square feet outdoors—remaining up for grabs.

“Everybody wants it but we need to get the right fit,” Ferrara said, adding that that tenant cannot just be about food and beverage. “They need to engage our customers,” he said.

CO was able to walk into what will be MRKTPL’s 12,723-square-foot artisanal food hall at Empire Outlets. It will house over 30 different vendors. All of the food and beverage operators, (except for Shake Shack which is in a different part of the shopping center), will line the 40,000-square-foot food and beverage deck. Restaurants that have signed on include the likes of Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, Wasabi Steak & Sushi, Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque and Nathan’s Famous.

The 3.5 acres of public outdoor space at Empire Outlets includes a staircase to nowhere with a green roof (and a 1,200-square-foot space underneath it for a seasonal pop-up store), three water features, sculptures and plantings. A 565,000-square-foot parking structure below ground will house 1,200 parking spaces. The project will have 22 escalators and 21 elevators. And there will be orange glass on “every vertical point of circulation,” paying “homage” to the Staten Island Ferry. Solar-powered paver lights will be installed throughout the entire project, and glass bridges will allow natural light to flow down to the retailers on the ground floor.

While he hopes to draw locals (he himself lives on Staten Island) with various programming at Empire Outlets, Ferrara expects the biggest group of shoppers—600,000 annually—to hail from China. “That’ll be the largest international tourist group here,” he said.