NEW YORK — Australian shopping mall developer Westfield has been building a 440,000-square-foot retail downtown mecca with soaring ceilings and a $1.4 billion price tag at full build out. The only thing that’s been missing has been retail tenants.

This story first appeared in the April 22, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

While neighbor Brookfield Place, which has a luxury focus, has announced a parade of tenants — including Michael Kors, Burberry, Ferragamo, Diane von Furstenberg and Calypso — during the course of its construction, Westfield has remained mum. Now, after months of speculation, it appears that Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford and Tiffany & Co. are in late-stage negotiations with Westfield, which declined comment. Ford reportedly has secured a street-level location fronting Church Street in lower Manhattan.

Westfield paid the Port Authority of New York/New Jersey $612.5 million for its 50 percent stake. The entire campus of 16 acres has a $20 billion price tag.

The center is expected to do $700 million to $1 billion in annual retail sales and $2,000 to $3,000 in sales per square foot. “It will be one of the top retail facilities in the world,” Greg Miles, chief operating officer of Westfield Group, said in October.

With 350,000 square feet available now — 90,000 square feet will be delivered when tower two is built — Miles in October said the company had started seeing “intense demand for retail space.” Westfield has said it is looking for a diverse range of high-street and luxury brands.

Westfield World Trade Center, as the retail component of the enormous office complex is called, will cater to 454,000 office workers plus 60,000 residents and an indeterminate number of tourists, who arrive by busload to visit the National 9/11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center. There will be nearly 5,600 hotel rooms available downtown, including the Ritz-Carlton, the new W Hotel and the future Four Seasons Hotel. Westfield believes the project is the largest commercial real estate development in the U.S.

Other brands said to be interested in Westfield World Trade Center include Apple, Hugo Boss, Zadig & Voltaire and J.Lindeberg.

According to sources, Westfield has signed about 50 percent of leases issued for the center, which is slated to open in 2015. The leases are said to be complicated due to the Port Authority’s involvement. Even though the Port Authority sold its stake to Westfield, it still has to approve the leases. “It’s a very convoluted structure,” a source said of the documents. “That’s what’s taking so long. But there’s slow and steady progress.”

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