Byline: Sharon Edelson

PARAMUS, N.J.--Garden State Plaza has big ambitions.
With a $200 million expansion slated for completion in the fall of 1996, GSP will nearly double its existing retail space to 2 million square feet, becoming one of the largest malls on the East Coast. With a projected sales volume of $700 million, it could also be one of the most successful.
By comparison, the Mall of America, the largest mall in the U.S., has projected volume at more than $650 million in 4.2 million square feet.
As reported, the expansion will include a 150,000-square-foot Neiman Marcus store and a 130,000-square-foot Lord & Taylor unit.
J.C. Penney will add 62,000 square feet to its existing 88,000-square-foot store. Macy's and Nordstrom's, the mall's other anchors will remain the same.
The 435,000-square-foot Macy unit is one of the chain's largest. Nordstrom's 272,000-square-foot store is the company's top producer in the Northeast, said Richard E. Green, president of Westfield Corp., an owner and developer of the property.
Ronald Tanler, president of L&T, said the new store will do about $40 million a year in volume.
Gerald Sampson, president of Neiman Marcus, declined to discuss sales projections, but sources involved with the project said the new Neiman's unit is expected to exceed $50 million in sales.
GSP is at the intersection of Routes 4 and 17 here, a location that is notorious for its traffic snarls. The state is planning to widen a bridge at the intersection to alleviate the congestion.
Routes 4 and 17 comprise one of the state's busiest retail corridors. Hundreds of chains have outposts along the highways, many with more than one unit just miles apart from each other.
The area's desirable demographics support the enormous retail activity, industry experts said. The median family income is over $74,000, which is above the national average. New Jersey does not tax clothing, an incentive that draws shoppers from Manhattan, Westchester and Rockland Counties.
At a ribbon-cutting ceremony at GSP Wednesday, New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman said that as a retail sales area, Paramus is second only to Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, when broken down by zip code across the country. According to Tanler, L&T plans to open five stores a year. Stores slated for 1995-1996 openings include Rochester, N.Y., Chicago, Philadelphia, Raleigh, N.C., and Providence, R.I.
L&T operates another Bergen County store several miles from GSP, on East Ridgewood Avenue in the Paramus Fashion Center.
"We will keep the Ridgewood Avenue store open," Tanler said in an interview. "The population density is so strong, our Ridgewood Avenue store is growing so fast, we're not concerned at all about the impact of the new store.
"Part of it is the congestion," Tanler added. "A lot of the people who shop in our Ridgewood Avenue store don't want to deal with the traffic here."
Tanler conceded that the Fashion Center, which consists of a Bed, Bath & Beyond, Brooks Bros. and T.J. Maxx, "is awful."
"Brooks Brothers is moving to Garden State Plaza," he said. "But none of that impacts our business."
Tanler said the Ridgewood Avenue store does about $40 million a year.
Penney's has a store at the Wayne Towne Center, about 12 miles from GSP.
"When we open this new, expanded store we will have less than a 1 percent transfer," said Ken Dall, J.C. Penney district manager. He said 45 percent of the new space at GSP will be devoted to women's apparel, while cosmetics will also be extended dramatically.
Neiman's has announced plans to open stores in Short Hills, N.J., and King of Prussia, Pa.
"The Garden State Plaza and Short Hills stores will situate us to serve the New York customer well," Sampson said.
The GSP store will be the mall's most upscale anchor, with a fur salon, precious jewelry boutique, gift gallery and restaurant. Designers such as Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Escada and Donna Karan will be highlighted.
"There really is a designer customer here," Sampson said. "There is also an attractive tax incentive for New Yorkers. We're only eight miles from New York."
Sampson said Neiman's is continuing to pursue Hawaii, and is eyeing Mexico as a potential market.
"We did visit with the secretary of commerce in Mexico," Sampson said. "It's a very attractive area for us. The demographics of Mexico City are consistent with the Neiman Marcus profile."
In addition to the three new anchors, the total number of specialty stores at GSP will increase from 208 to 318.
Green said an existing Gap will take more space along with a new Banana Republic.
Larry A. Horton, a leasing manager for Westfield, said Eddie Bauer is thinking about expanding and relocating its store in the mall. Dana Buchman, First Issue and Fred Jollier have all expressed interest in opening stores at GSP.
Green said specialty stores like Eddie Bauer, Ann Taylor and Guess are looking at GSP with an eye toward larger stores.
"We're talking to Ann Taylor about doing a large store, in excess of 12,000 square feet," said Horton. "We're working with retailers who have existing concepts and are looking for flagship stores."
The project is expected to produce 1,500 jobs.

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