Acadiana Business

Riverwalk to become upscale outlet mall

by Leslie Turk

The Howard Hughes Corp. is spending $70 million to convert New Orleans' Riverwalk Marketplace into an upscale outlet mall.

The Howard Hughes Corporation announced Thursday plans for the redevelopment of Riverwalk Marketplace into an upscale outlet centerĀ -The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk.

Construction will begin later this year, with an expected reopening in late 2013.

Most of the three-level mall's tenants are local shop owners selling New Orleans themed products to tourists and conventioneers, a change prompted by the departure of several national retailers, like Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie and Fitch, after Hurricane Katrina.

Opened in 1986 on property that had been used for the 1984 World's Fair, the Riverwalk is located in New Orleans Central Business District, directly adjacent to the 1,600-room Hilton Riverside Hotel and New Orleans Convention Center.

According to New Orleans CityBusiness, General Growth Properties, the Riverwalk's former owner, sold the mall to Hughes Corp., a spinoff company, in late 2010 as a part of a bankruptcy restructuring plan.

"Our redevelopment and repositioning of this storied riverfront property will bring well-known, popular retail and entertainment establishments, many which will be new to New Orleans," Grant Herlitz, president of The Howard Hughes Corp said in announcing the investment. "Beyond the impact of these compelling options for locals and tourists, we are pleased to be part of the continued revitalization of New Orleans given the many benefits this development will represent to the city."

Hughes Corp., which will expand its footprint by about 50,000 square feet to an approximate total of 250,000 square feet, said the center will showcase top national retailers with established outlet stores as well as some local retail, dining and entertainment options.

Along with being the nation's first outlet center located in a downtown setting, many of the retail establishments will be the first location in Louisiana, New Orleans and the Gulf region for their respective brands, the company said.

Long underserved in the retail sector, New Orleans has approximately 30 pecent less square feet of retail per capita than the national average. Additionally, Hughes Corp. noted the mall is in need of revitalization, as it has not been updated in any significant way by previous owners since its grand opening in 1986.

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