PARAMUS, N.J. — With the economy in the doldrums, the repositioning of Bergen Towne Center as a value-oriented mall comes not a moment too soon.
The mall, which bowed here in 1957 as open-air property with Stern’s as its anchor, is capturing the attention of consumers jaded by the profusion of stores in the area. Bergen Towne Center sits along Route 4, a retail mecca that intersects with the equally shopping-dense Route 17.
Known as Bergen Mall until 2003, the center was enclosed in 1973 when Orbach’s opened. The center has had a revolving door of anchors since then. Orbach’s was converted to a Steinbach, which became a Value City in 1999 when Steinbach went out of business. Bergen’s other anchor, Stern’s, was converted to Macy’s in 2001 following Federated Department Stores Inc.’s decision to fold the Stern’s brand into Macy’s. With two other Macy’s locations nearby, Federated closed the Bergen Towne Center store in 2005.
By the time Vornado bought the center in 2003 for $160 million from Simon Property Group, the mall was run down and had multiple vacancies. Vornado invested $150 million into renovating and expanding the center to 1.5 million square feet. Target and Whole Foods were installed at opposite ends of a long corridor with in-line stores and eateries in between.
Northern New Jersey has never lacked for retail options. Garden State Plaza, a 2 million-square-foot regional behemoth, sits at the intersection of routes 4 and 17. There are four other malls within a few miles, plus strip centers and big-box retailers.
Saks Off 5th and Marshalls joined the mall in the Nineties. When Century 21 took over the former Macy’s site in 2007, the direction of the center became clearer.
“We believed in the real estate,” said Sandeep Mathrani, executive vice president of Vornado’s retail division. “We own the Ikea site [across from Garden State Plaza] too. We bought out Value City and bought out Macy’s. Then we asked ourselves, ‘How do we tenant this and differentiate it from Garden State Plaza and [the upscale] Riverside Square Mall [in nearby River Edge, N.J.]”
Value seemed to be the answer. Despite a median household income of $80,063 in 2007, well above the $67,142 for the entire state, Bergen County residents have displayed a penchant for value.
“We didn’t know five years ago that value would be the flavor of the year,” said Mathrani. “I’d be disappointed if sales were not comparable to Garden State Plaza, which does $700 per square foot. This is one of the bright spots in retail development.”
Earlier this month, a Nike Factory Store and Nordstrom Rack opened. Century 21 is interested in adding another level. Sources said a Tommy Hilfiger outlet store is in the works and Manhattan restaurateur Bobby Flay is opening Bobby’s Burger Palace across from Whole Foods.
Mathrani insisted on raising the mall’s aesthetics. He didn’t want Bergen Towne Center to look like a value center with industrial fixtures and cheap construction materials and finishes. On a recent tour, Mathrani said the ceilings in the common areas were raised to accommodate skylights. The entire center has stone floors throughout and the restrooms look like those in luxury hotels, with details such as sconces and black and white marble. “We built the most expensive garage,” Mathrani said, referring to the 5,000-parking-space structure with high-end lighting that blends seamlessly into the mall’s design. “Even the kiosks we brought in are architecturally wonderful,” he added.
Walking by a series of black faux leather chairs, Mathrani stops the mall’s general manager, Bassam Mhich, to ask, “When are you going to get rid of those massage chairs?” The chairs, he explained, are a tacky holdover from the center’s previous incarnation.
From overseeing America’s fastest-growing speciality retailers to codifying cool, WWD talked to the women who are leading the way for the future of beauty. Check out our Instagram Stories to see how these women built today and are creating tomorrow. (📸: @hannah_khymych) #wwdbeauty
For @laperlalingerie's spring 2018 show, the brand chose to host their event at @thevenetianmacao. With Chinese megastars @bingbing_fan and @hubing in attendance, La Perla debuted a rock ‘n’ roll-inspired collection. The show marked the start of Sands Macao Fashion Week, which runs from October 19 to 24 — the city’s first such event. Pictured here are models backstage with glimmering eyes. #wwdfashion (📷: Cheuk-Yin To)
Trending for spring 2018: top stitch design. Gone are the days of stitch just for seams — designers are using the once-minimal detail to create strong decorative elements. (📷: Paola Testa; Styled by @andrew_shang) #wwdfashion
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)