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Anglophiles soon may want to take another look at China. The northern port city of Tianjin is transforming its historic center into New English Town, New Bond Street, a 40-acre luxury retail mecca modeled after London’s most fashionable shopping districts.
This story first appeared in the June 20, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Set to open in 2012, New English Town will center on Victoria Gardens and take in five separate courtyards named after well-known London destinations, among them Oxford Street, Sloane Square and Regent Street. On Tai’an Road, government buildings up to 100 years old, including a former British consulate and a mining bureau, are being refurbished as part of the project. Unlike like the shopping centers typically found in China, it will feature freestanding stores, as well as high-end hotels and restaurants. A Ritz-Carlton hotel is already close to completion.
To help execute its vision, the Tianjin government has retained Crown Acquisitions, the New York-based real estate developer that owns 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Haim Chera, son of Crown’s founder and chief executive officer Stanley Chera, says the plan is to lure high-end American and European brands to New English Town, which will offer 200,000 square feet of retail space. “They brought us in to fill it with tenants,” he says, predicting that it “will rival Fifth Avenue or Avenue Montaigne in Paris.”
Tiajin, located about 70 miles southeast of Beijing, is 600 years old and China’s sixth-largest city, with 14 million residents. It is already home to another luxury retail site, Hisense Plaza, whose tenants include Calvin Klein, Burberry, Brooks Brothers and Giorgio Armani. Chera, who is targeting retailers that currently operate in China through licensing agreements, calls the Chinese luxury market “insatiable.” Still, he has a big job ahead. As Chera puts it, “It’s like merchandising Fifth Avenue from scratch.”