Oh, those stores!
But ugh, that traffic!
Downtown Summerlin’s 1.6 million-square-foot outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment center opened Thursday to thousands of consumers and mostly positive reviews. The top complaint? As befits any big opening day, traffic.
Officials with The Howard Hughes Corp., Summerlin’s developer, didn’t have precise counts late Thursday, but they said thousands of people visited the shopping center on Day One. The center has 6,400 parking spaces, and the lots were completely packed all afternoon and into the evening as visitors constantly churned through the property.
Shoppers who braved the crowds witnessed 85 of the center’s 125 stores open for business, a fashion show and an evening light, sound and fireworks show.
And they mostly liked what they saw.
“It’s a really nice place. Downtown Summerlin is a good name — it really does have that feel of a downtown, with the city blocks. It’s very pretty,” Summerlin resident Chuck Rath said. “It seems like a place to walk around and relax. There are good places to shop and decent places to eat.”
Rath said he and his wife, Natalie, would be back to visit once or twice a month.
Trish Metriyakool was so eager to see the center that she sneaked onto the site Wednesday, the day before it opened. She brought her friend, Nikki Balsbaugh, back with her for Thursday’s debut. The Summerlin residents planned to stop by lululemon, Macy’s, Ulta Beauty and Trader Joe’s, and they said they’d probably return every week or two.
“It has everything you need. It’s a one-stop shop,” Metriyakool said.
Still, traffic was a concern for many visitors. Cars were lined up along Sahara Avenue on Thursday afternoon trying to get into the property at the 215 Beltway and Sahara. Rath called the traffic jam he faced getting onto the property “horrendous.”
“I worry it’s going to be a traffic nightmare,” he said.
Sun City Summerlin resident Alice McArdle agreed that parking “is going to be an issue.”
“Having been down here and seen it, it’ll be a while before I come back,” she said.
It took a while for the shopping center to arrive.
The 1.6 million-square-foot center broke ground in 2007 and was initially scheduled to open in 2009. The Great Recession derailed those plans, halting construction in 2008. But as unemployment dropped, incomes rose and frozen credit markets thawed, building restarted in mid-2013.
“The opening of Downtown Summerlin is certainly very significant for The Howard Hughes Corp., but it’s equally significant for the broader community,” said David Weinreb, the development company’s CEO. “We’re looking forward to people enjoying the quality of what we’ve created. It speaks to our confidence in creating a downtown that’s unrivaled anywhere in the country.”
Among the center’s uncommon touches: Its 34 buildings all have a different design aesthetic, with no two buildings sharing an architectural style. It also has a grid layout, with “city blocks.” The idea is to make it feel like an “authentic” urban center, Weinreb said.
The 106-acre shopping center is the biggest phase yet in the development of the 400-acre Downtown Summerlin, which includes Red Rock Resort. Another 200 vacant acres east of the shopping center may one day house millions of square feet of Class A office space, as well as a baseball stadium and thousands of apartments and mid- and high-rise condominiums.
Weinreb said Downtown Summerlin would be the “ultimate differentiator” that sets Summerlin apart from other master plans nationwide. Weinreb said he believes the development could even help convince people to move to Southern Nevada.
The project’s opening is also a salve for a city burned more than any others by the Great Recession.
“We’ve been through a tough time, and tonight, we gather to celebrate our recovery and the future of this state,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval, as he kicked off the center’s evening street party. “Tonight, we’re in Downtown Summerlin to celebrate one of our biggest successes in a long time.”
Sandoval also said The Howard Hughes Corp. has “made a destination like no other, maybe in the country.”
Completing that destination will take time. In addition to the 200 undeveloped acres to the east, the shopping center isn’t done yet. Dozens more stores will open in waves through early 2015, with a cluster of launches scheduled for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
Retailers open Thursday included Macy’s, Dillard’s, Foot Locker, Trader Joe’s, Boston Proper, L’Occitane, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Sephora and Crave American Kitchen &Sushi Bar.
Boards outside yet-to-open stores herald coming tenants, including Apple, Banana Republic and b.young.
Dillard’s, along with Macy’s a center anchor, celebrated at 9:30 a.m. with a performance by the Palo Verde High School marching band and a proclamation from Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.
“It’s been a decade since we wanted to come to this area, and now, it is here,” said Dan Jensen, vice president and director of stores for Dillard’s.
Rosette DeGennaro was in line to see the store just before 10 a.m. DeGennaro, an 18-year Summerlin resident, said she watched the shopping center break ground and then stall, its nine-story office tower’s steel frame left bare.
“When it was a steel structure, I was just sick. We’ve been waiting for this for so long,” DeGennaro said. “I am very excited about this. No more going down to the Strip to shop.”
Retailers reported early success.
Golfsmith, a golf equipment retailer, said it had more than 1,000 visitors by 5 p.m. — its best-ever “soft opening.”
Crave said it served lunch for more than 600 guests.
High-end kitchen-goods store Sur La Table saw nearly 200 visitors in its first hour, said District Manager Alex Le. Dozens of shoppers were lined up at the store’s test stations for coffee machines and other gadgets, as well as a kitchen where employees trained to teach cooking classes that begin Saturday. It’s the second area store for Sur La Table, which is also in Fashion Show.
“The customer response has been amazing,” Le said. “It’s like a nonstop open house. I love it.”
Contact Jennifer Robison at email@example.com. Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.