Taubman Centers Inc. and New Century Development broke ground Thursday on the 650,000-square-foot Mall of San Juan, the island’s first luxury retail development that will feature the first Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom in the Caribbean.
The future mall, located adjacent to the San Jose Lagoon where the former Villa Panamericana housing complex one stood at the south end of the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge, is just two miles from the Luis Muñoz Marín International airport.
The entire project is expected to open in late 2014. Taubman will develop, lease and manage the shopping center, officials said during an on-site ceremony that drew participation from Gov. Luis Fortuño as well as San Juan city officials.
“Beyond the establishment of a shopping center of world caliber for the neighbors of these communities, The Mall of San Juan represents a new center of life, where employment opportunities and progress are created. With a private investment of $405 million,” Fortuño said during the groundbreaking.
The two-level shopping center formerly known as Plaza Internacional will house approximately 100 stores and restaurants, of which 60 percent are expected to be new to the island. While Saks Fifth Avenue will occupy 100,000 square feet, Nordstrom will take up another 138,000 square feet, anchoring the mall.
“The majority of The Mall of San Juan’s shops and restaurants will be new to the market, bringing a crital mass of luxury, bridge, and better merchandise that does not exist on the island today,” Taubman states on its website, with regards to the property. “Puerto Rico is the leading Caribbean tourism destination with nearly 5 million tourists who will spend $4.7 billion in 2015.”
The Mall of San Juan will generate 5,000 direct jobs, 2,000 during the construction phase and another 3,000 by the time it opens its doors.
“Not only will this construction transform the area, it will also inject energy to the zone, providing convenience, uniting communities, and promising thousands of families a better quality of life, not to mention the positive effect other related businesses who service these industries will experience,” he added.
The shopping center is expected to generate sales of approximately $275 million to $300 million with expected tax revenues in excess of $26 million, company officials said.
A collaborative effort
Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony comes 12 years after the developers announced their plans to build the mammoth retail property in 2000. The following year, the incoming Gov. Sila Calderón’s administration tried unsuccessfully to cancel development in the area where the mall would sit.
No sooner had that been resolved, when the United Retailers Association and retail rival Empresas Fonalledas, owners of the Plaza Las Américas shopping center, filed separate court cases to try to halt its construction. However, the court ultimately decided in Taubman’s favor, green-lighting the project.
“This groundbreaking is the culmination of a great collaboration with our partners at Taubman,” said Frank J. Trogolo, vice president of New Century Development Inc. “As a Puerto Rican company, we are proud to bring this great project to our island.”
“Our team has worked hard to bring to San Juan the first luxury shopping destination in the Caribbean,” he said. The economic contribution and the new jobs created will have a very positive impact on the community.”
The shopping center is a joint venture with New Century Development of Puerto Rico, who will also be constructing a 225-room hotel and casino — Expected to be a Crowne Plaza-branded property — adjoined to the mall.
“Our city welcomes The Mall of San Juan. A project of this magnitude represents an important destination for our community and our visitors. We are extremely excited about the construction and upcoming opening of this world class mall,” said San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini.
At the conclusion of the groundbreaking ceremony, Taubman Chief Operating Officer William Taubman presented a $10,000 check to the San Juan Bay Estuary Program.
“The communities where we build our shopping centers are the key to our success,” said Taubman. “We believe it’s important to reciprocate and support the community as well.”