By  on May 3, 2006

DALLAS — NorthPark Center here is ready to raise the curtain on the final touches of a $225 million expansion that is intended to make it the dominant mall in the highly competitive North Texas market.

The new space, featuring about 70 stores, restaurants, gargantuan works of art by Claes Oldenburg and Mark di Suvero and a 15-screen AMC movie theater, has a grand opening set for Friday.

A two-level corridor focuses on youth in an attempt to redress a mall weakness. Running between Foley's and Nordstrom, the corridor has dozens of stores to dress and amuse babies through teens, including Hanna Andersson, Janie and Jack, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Jacadi, Gymboree, PacSun, Hollister, Skechers, Swatch, Urban Outfitters, XXI, Aéropostale and American Eagle Outfitters, among others. Play Planet Funk, BabyStyle, Puzzle Zoo, Oakley and GameStop will be opening in the weeks ahead.

Four new concepts will launch at NorthPark. Martin + Osa, a division of American Eagle Outfitters targeting shoppers ages 25 to 40, plans one of its first five units here in August. Crewcuts, J. Crew's new children's brand, introduced its first freestanding store on Tuesday and the company's Madewell women's casual brand is to open in August. Sephora, a longtime tenant, is building a bigger store connected to a Klinger Advanced Aesthetics spa in the first example of the companies' new partnership.

Nordstrom, which opened in November in the first phase of the mall's two-year expansion, is a prototype with a new layout and fixtures.

Nancy A. Nasher, co-owner of the mall with her husband, David J. Haemisegger, said the goal was to lure "the best of the best" in retail.

And still to come, Barneys New York on Sept. 29 will unveil an 88,000-square-foot flagship in a revamped space vacated by Lord & Taylor.

"We will have the best tenant mix and merchandise mix, and that will set us apart," Haemisegger said.

NorthPark's leading competitor is the Galleria Dallas, which opened in 1982 and is said to be the top tourist attraction in Dallas with 207 stores, a Westin Hotel, offices and anchors including Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Macy's. It was renovated and expanded in 2004 and is building two restaurants."The expansion we have here…and NorthPark's expansion are wonderful for all of us because it brings attention to Dallas, benefits everyone and makes us stronger and more competitive," said Peggy Weaver, Galleria's general manager.

Saks, Macy's, Nordstrom, Tiffany, Versace and Gucci are among the stores that made their Dallas debuts at the Galleria, which doesn't release sales figures. At NorthPark, built in 1965, sales reached $714 a square foot last year, a 7 percent jump compared with 2004. NorthPark is projected to hit volume of $1 billion in about three years, possibly as early as 2008, Haemisegger said.

Before expanding, NorthPark was already a top center with the second-highest volume unit of Neiman Marcus that Nasher said produces almost $170 million in annual sales. It also has leading units of Dillard's and Foley's, which is to switch to the Macy's nameplate Sept. 10.

Luxury offerings also are growing. Salvatore Ferragamo, Intermix, CH Carolina Herrera, Michael Kors, Wolford, Movado and Na Hoku, a Hawaiian jeweler, are to open through the fall, and others will be announced, Nasher said. The mall already has Tiffany, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Coach, Porsche Design and David Yurman, among others.

Sixty USA will enter Texas in June with adjacent stores for Miss Sixty and Energie near Juicy Couture and Ted Baker in the wing that opened last fall between Neiman's and Nordstrom. "NorthPark Center has done such a fantastic job of merchandising the expansion with unique designer and fashion companies," said Robin Kurkhill, director of retail at Sixty USA.

Barneys is launching at NorthPark for the second time. The retailer's first store, which was 19,000 square feet, closed in 1997, partly because the merchandise mix didn't match the store's reputation, Haemisegger said. The new incarnation will be a full-line unit that "will have the things that people have come to expect" from Barneys, he said.

Continuing the tradition of exhibiting fine art begun by Nasher's father, mall founder Raymond Nasher, she and Haemisegger have bought several works for the expansion.

Di Suvero set up a 48-foot-high orange steel abstract sculpture, called "Ad Astra," or Reaching to the Stars, in the new wing in April. It is his first indoor installation. A 21-foot-high blue safety pin by Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen , "Corridor Pin, Blue," will be in the new 1.4-acre outdoor garden, a former parking lot. The tree-lined space at the center of the mall will be used for events, dining alfresco and as a pleasant shortcut from one side of the mall to another. Inside, custom steel and ceramic planters are packed with contemporary arrangements of bromeliads, cactus, ornamental grasses and flowers.The di Suvero sculpture is flanked by the AMC theater and NorthPark Cafes, a food court with a compluvium, an open-roof, glass-enclosed space.

NorthPark will house 228 stores and 30 dining spots in 1.9 million square feet of retail space. And NorthPark isn't done growing. Haemisegger envisions a hotel, offices and big-box stores such as Crate & Barrel, plus restaurants in a 14-acre parking lot on the north side of the 93-acre spread. Construction could begin as soon as 2008.

"It becomes an attraction; you can stay where you shop," Haemisegger said of the hotel.

Plans are also under way for a $10 million renovation of the original mall, with new skylights, lighting, paint and flooring, beginning next year.

The center this week will launch a print, radio and billboard campaign. Ten days of events and fashion shows will kick off Friday.

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