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Tanger Outlets Savannah new regional retail mecca

  • Ian Maule/Savannah Morning News A construction worker walks by a Coach store at the Tanger Outlets in Pooler on Thursday, April 9th, 2015

With its 85 brand-name stores, freshly poured asphalt and a red-and-white lighthouse to beckon shoppers traveling on Interstate 95, Tanger Outlets Savannah looks right at home as the area’s newest regional shopping hub.

For longtime mall developer Ben Carter, it was more than 10 years in the making, though actual construction took just one year from start to finish for the first phase of the outlet mall.

The mall will have its grand opening at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 16, with co-developers Carter and Steven Tanger, president and CEO of the Greensboro, N.C.-based Tanger Factory Outlet Centers, on stage to cut the ribbon. The event will be hosted by HGTV’s Property Brothers Jonathan and Drew Scott.

During an interview last week on site, Carter said seeing the rapid development of Pooler Parkway, where more than 50 restaurants and retail stores have opened since 2014, indicates he made the right decision.

“It’s proof that it was a great trade area, a great location,” he said.

The opening weekend is projected to bring about 25,000 shoppers, an unprecedented volume of traffic off the I-95 interchange at Pooler Parkway.

“Pooler has been a major growth area for years. Obviously that stalled some during the recession, but it’s coming back quickly,” Carter said.

Carter said he first saw the property in 2005 after opening the upscale St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville — he recently sold his stake there — and was attracted to the Pooler property because of its prime location.

“The visibility and access from I-95 is very important because outlet projects tend to draw from a 50-mile ring,” he said. “There are 26 million vehicles a year that go past this site a year.”

This is the first collaboration between Carter and Tanger, which owns and operates about 43 shopping outlet malls in 26 states as well as Canada, and represents an investment of approximately $107 million with an additional $80 million in peripheral development.

The first phase of the center boasts 400,000 square feet of retail space, with an additional 500,000 square feet in the pipeline for future development.

“It was a huge regional trade area that wasn’t being served except for (Tanger) Hilton Head,” Carter said. “Strategically, for us to partner with Tanger, was a great opportunity to try to put together a team that understood the local market as well as the national outlet market.”

Tanger’s CEO said it made sense for them to expand to an area experiencing major growth.

“Savannah is a vibrant market known for its unique character and penchant for style,” said Tanger via emailed comments. “We saw an opportunity to expand our footprint in the area for the convenience of our shoppers and to bring a world class shopping experience to the city of Savannah.”

Carter said adding together Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart, Home Depot and the other big-box retailers nearby, this corridor will fast become a top shopping destination.

“This area is basically home to almost 2 million square feet of retail and restaurants, which will be the largest concentration of retail within 100 miles of here,” he said.

In the weeks leading up to Thursday’s opening, a throng of nearly 500 subcontractors worked virtually nonstop, planting landscape, spreading asphalt and doing paint touchups. Meanwhile, managers and employees trickled in to begin putting up merchandise and practicing for the opening.

Laura Simmons, general manager of the new center, said another indication of Tanger’s economic impact is seeing how many managers of these retail stores have relocated from other parts of the country.

“There’s a manager from New Jersey and New York that moved to Pooler for this project,” she said. “It’s neat to see that because you see a little bit of the true economic impact that it’s really bringing people here.”

The center is expected to employ close to 900 people.

At the entrance to the mall on Tanger Boulevard (formerly Benton Boulevard), two LED screens with Tanger’s logo and special deals welcome shoppers. Two of the larger anchor tenants, Coach and Michael Kors, sit across from each other, as other stores familiar to Tanger shoppers — Nike, Gap and Old Navy — round out the plaza.

Although there will be some overlap with stores offered at the Bluffton Tanger Outlets 30 miles away, the Pooler center will have unique local offerings, including a Savannah Candy Kitchen, The Peanut Shop of Savannah and The Salt Table.

“What’s unusual about this outlet verses a lot of outlets around America that are being done is that it’s a fashion outlet,” Carter said. “To really be able to have that you need to have Polo, Michael Kors, Coach, Brooks Brothers, J. Crew and Banana Republic.”

Tanger said although their two outlet centers are close in proximity, Hilton Head and Savannah each draw a sizeable group of shoppers and shouldn’t cut into the other’s business.

“We vet each of our locations thoroughly and identify key locations where we can enhance the existing community by providing a first-class shopping experience,” Tanger said.

 

Entertainment

Unlike other Tanger centers, Savannah’s will have a heightened entertainment factor. Besides the red-striped lighthouse, a homage to Tybee Island, there are ornamental fountains, pergolas and a replica of the Bay Street bell tower.

A play area for children located near Johnny Rockets will have slides, a small amphitheater and boxwood maze for kids to run through.

Tanger said this was to provide customers not only with great deals, but to create a destination that caters to the whole family.

The center will fit in with Pooler Parkway’s already overflowing family entertainment draws, including an IMAX, bowling alley and soon-to-open waterpark.

As of Friday, the outlet center’s Facebook page had already racked up nearly 20,000 fans with shoppers waiting to make their first trip.

The Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport has agreed to pause air traffic for 20 minutes on Friday night to allow for a fireworks show for the grand opening.

 

The new life of the American mall

The mall also reflects the chameleon-like transformation of the American shopping mall, particularly the shift by developers toward more open air, outdoor centers, looking to more closely resemble Main Street, with public spaces, sidewalks and outdoor seating.

Simmons described the new space as a “nice urban lifestyle center,” a nod to this new town center model.

The Savannah Mall on southside, built 24 years ago, is a prime example of this relatively swift shift by consumers away from indoor shopping spaces. The center has been plagued by vacancies and an unsuccessful attempt to incorporate more entertainment-themed businesses.

Carter said this is in line with his own real estate philosophy and has vowed never to do another enclosed mall.

“Shoppers and customers are constantly evolving, but some of the issues that they have is profitability issues,” said Carter. “The outlet format provides the customer with a value opportunity to shop, but it also provides the retailer with a much more reasonable cost of real estate occupancy, so the stores are extraordinarily profitable for them.”

Tanger said their outlet centers cater to shoppers who are looking for an enhanced experience.

“While online shopping has changed the market overall, we find that many are not simply seeking goods or great prices, but they’re seeking an experience,” said Tanger. “Whether it’s with family, friends or on their own for some retail therapy, shoppers will always seek an experience that makes them feel good.”

And the grand opening is only the beginning. The 176-acre property has another 50 acres of peripheral land ready for development. Carter said he’s in talks with at least one hotel, several restaurants and a sporting goods chain but wouldn’t disclose names just yet.

Standing on the side of the entrance, beneath a long line of newly planted palm trees, Carter summed it all up.

“What I’ve done in my career is try to create places that people like to come to because they’re aesthetically pleasing and they relate to their community and environment, and that’s what I’ve done here,” he said.

 

FUN FACTS ABOUT TANGER OUTLETS SAVANNAH:

• The center’s structures are fortified by 1,100 tons of steel, equivalent to about 183 elephants.

• A single helicopter delivered 127 air conditioning units averaging one unit nearly every 1 minute, 30 seconds.

• The parking lot contains 2,700 parking spaces, allowing up to 10,800 tires.

• More than 2.2 million cubic yards of dirt were moved during construction, the equivalent of about 1.1 million wheel barrow loads.

• The largest crane on site weighed 350 tons.

Source: Tanger Factory Outlet Centers Inc.

 

 

WEST CHATHAM COMMUNITIES PROMOTE DEVELOPMENT

Civic leaders in Port Wentworth are talking about how they can generate capital and interest to help existing business owners and attract potential investors to some of the town’s older properties.

At the sametime, governing bodies in other Georgia communities — including the west Chatham towns of Garden City and Pooler — are beginning to take the lead in reviving local development.

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FUN FACTS ABOUT TANGER OUTLETS SAVANNAH:

• The center’s structures are fortified by 1,100 tons of steel, equivalent to about 183 elephants.

• A single helicopter delivered 127 air conditioning units averaging one unit nearly every 1 minute, 30 seconds.

• The parking lot contains 2,700 parking spaces, allowing up to 10,800 tires.

• More than 2.2 million cubic yards of dirt were moved during construction, the equivalent of about 1.1 million wheel barrow loads.

• The largest crane on site weighed 350 tons.

 

Source: Tanger Factory Outlet Centers Inc.

 

WEST CHATHAM COMMUNITIES PROMOTE DEVELOPMENT

Civic leaders in Port Wentworth are talking about how they can generate capital and interest to help existing business owners and attract potential investors to some of the town’s older properties.

At the same time, governing bodies in other Georgia communities — including the west Chatham towns of Garden City and Pooler — are beginning to take the lead in reviving local development.

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