Shopping mall kingpin Ben Carter’s peers rarely consider him clueless about a project.
However, Carter’s first foray into developing an outlet mall — the Outlet Mall of Georgia planning for Pooler — prompted that criticism at a convention last year.
“They told me we didn’t know what we were doing,” Carter said. “Obviously, we’re doing something right.”
Carter has secured leases for 70 percent of the 560,000-square-foot facility 18 months ahead of its opening. Carter and several local government and economic development officials on Tuesday hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on the Outlet Mall of Georgia site, located near the Interstate 95 and Pooler Parkway interchange.
Crews began prepping the site in July and have cleared trees from the 65-acre property. The scheduled opening is April 1, 2015, although Carter acknowledged the mall could open as early as November 2014.
The mall will feature 170 stores, with the focus on upscale fashion retailers. Carter did not disclose lessees but mentioned popular brands such as Michael Kors and Banana Republic, among others. Forty percent of the current committed retailers will be new to the Savannah market, Carter said.
Count Savannah’s top fashionista, Mayor Edna Jackson, among those ready to shop the new mall.
“I will be at the door,” Jackson said. “I don’t know what stores you will have, but I will be here.”
The Outlet Mall of Georgia represents a $200 million investment and will produce an estimated $400 million in annual sales revenue, according to Carter. The facility will employ as many as 2,000 workers.
The mall will appeal to more than just shoppers, Carter said. The Outlet Mall of Georgia will be a family destination, complete with a playground, carousel, kiddie train and picnic pavilion. Carter will incorporate a mock Tybee Island lighthouse and replicas of downtown Savannah fountains into the design.
Carter, a self-described “place maker,” referenced past projects, such as the Mall of Georgia outside Atlanta and Jacksonville’s St. Johns Town Center.
The Outlet Mall of Georgia will address the Savannah area’s retail shortcomings, according to officials. Savannah attracts 12 million visitors each year and almost 25 million cars pass by on Interstate 95, yet the local area lags Charleston, S.C., by $500 million in annual tourism retail spending.
The outlet mall “will have a huge impact on tourism spending and tourism visits,” Carter said. “The location is phenomenal.”
The Pooler Parkway exit off I-95 is home to more than 1,800 hotel rooms, a capacity that ranks among the highest in the I-95 corridor.
The Outlet Mall of Georgia will be a boon to Pooler, said the city’s mayor, Mike Lamb.
He chuckled Tuesday while recounting a story about attending one of his first ribbon-cuttings as the municipality’s mayor a decade ago. The new business was a Carey Hilliard’s restaurant, and Lamb remembered thinking “now we’re a big city.”
Tuesday’s groundbreaking left him with a similar feeling, albeit on a grander scale, he said.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes as mayor,” Lamb said. “It’s been a great ride, and it keeps getting better and better.”
ABOUT BEN CARTER ENTERPRISES
Founded in 1993 by Benjamin M. Carter, Ben Carter Enterprises is an Atlanta-based, full service, commercial real estate firm that specializes in retail and mixed-use projects throughout the Southeast. Among the company’s most recent development projects are:
• St. Johns Town Center and Town Center II in Jacksonville, Fla., nearly 2 million square feet of upscale retail and mixed use.
• Columbus Park Crossing and Columbus Park Crossing South, 1 million square feet of retail and mixed use in Columbus.
• Conyers Crossroads, nearly 500,000 square feet in Rockdale County, Ga.
• The Mall of Georgia, a 1.7 million square foot retail and entertainment complex in Gwinnett County.
ON THE WEB
Find this story on savannahnow.com to watch video of shopping mall developer Ben Carter address dignitaries and media during the Outlet Mall of Georgia groundbreaking.