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Art gets top billing in Garden State Plaza renovation

November 19, 2018

Art takes center stage in the nearly two-year redevelopment of Westfield Garden State Plaza in Bergen County, New Jersey, which is nearing completion.

“Garden State Plaza is one of those centers that we hold at the highest echelon of retail within our portfolio,” said Peter Huddle, chief operating officer at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, which owns the center.

Cyclic II, by Mariko Mori. Photo by Lisa Herrmann

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s use of art in public spaces has become an integral element of the company’s many U.S.-based redevelopments. “Art is just one form of ensuring that our centers create a welcoming environment and provide a bit of a wow factor,” Huddle said.

Adrift, by Timothy Paul Myers. Photo by Lisa Herrmann

Garden State Plaza’s art collection includes the work of New York and global artists, including Hugo McCloud, Timothy Paul Myers, Los Carpinteros, Mariko Mori and Jose Dávila. The collection was curated by Isolde Brielmaier, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s executive director of art and culture in the U.S. She is also an assistant professor at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University

Luxury Knot, by John Reistetter. Photo by Lisa Herrmann

The first phase of the redevelopment opened in fall 2017 with a new bistro dining hall and interactive children’s play area. Now the second phase, unveiled in October, includes a new interior and exterior design with modern décor and lighting and a full range of technology enhancements. There are new seating lounges, interior landscaping, heating and cooling systems, digital media screens, enhanced WiFi service, wayfinding technologies, music systems, and fully integrated digital services for retailers.

The mall's interior has been completely redone

“We take a strategic position that continual investment within our shopping centers as retail is changing at a very fast rate is required to make sure that our environments remain relevant to the consumer that they are trying to attract,” said Huddle. “There is a substantial amount of money that went into what the customer won't see visibly from walking through the shopping center, but hopefully makes their customer experience easier and more exciting.”

The company is not disclosing the cost of the renovation.

More than a dozen new shops and restaurants, as well as a permanent art collection, were also unveiled for the 2.1 million-square-foot mall. New additions to the tenant roster include Bar Louie and Mighty Quinn’s BBQ; the first New Jersey location for online glasses retailer Warby Parker; the second U.S. store for South Korean beauty brand Innisfree; cosmetics brand Morphe; and new boutiques for Charles Tyrwhitt, Fabletics, and Saje Natural Wellness. Also opening are cosmetics and beauty brands Riley Rose, Nature Collection and Rituals, as well as luxury leather goods and accessories brand MCM and e-commerce retailer UNtuckit.

Homage to the Square, by Jose Davila

The Bergen County trade area justifies the investment, says Huddle, describing it as one of the most powerful trade areas from a demographic viewpoint within the country, not only in terms of size and disposable income, but across a whole range of different categories that makes Garden State Plaza, from our perspective, one of our premiere shopping centers within the Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield portfolio in the country.”

The last stage of the redevelopment will feature the conversion of a former 177,000-square-foot JC Penney space into new retail by the holiday shopping season in late 2020.

A quite place to take a break from the shopping

“These days many mall and shopping center owners are redeveloping their properties to stay relevant and, more importantly, with the changing retail landscape, fully leased and cash flowing,” said Steven Winters, a vice president at CBRE based in East Brunswick, N.J. “A prime example of that trend is Garden State Plaza, already a tremendously successful ‘fortress mall’ located in one of the best retail trade areas in the country. They were ahead of the curve and started planning its renovation a few years ago.”

Clavo Veintiuno, by a Puerto Rico–based artist collective. Photo by Lisa Herrmann

The strength of the local trade area played a major role in the company’s leasing strategy. While at its other centers the company has been increasing space allotted to fitness and food tenants and reducing that given over to fashion, it is increasing the luxury mix at Garden State Plaza, Huddle says.

The lucrative demographics of the local market, he added, have made it more competitive to attract retailers.

By Ben Johnson

Contributor, Shopping Centers Today

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