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15 years after 9/11, iconic NYC mall to reopen at ground zero

New York's new downtown is starting to take shape.

Nearly 15 years after the devastating Sept. 11 attacks, the World Trade Center mall will officially reopen Tuesday.

Fifty to 60 of the center's 113 tenants will be open for business at noon, with the remainder cutting the ribbon on their shops before the holiday season. Tenants include Apple, Victoria's Secret, H&M, Under Armour and Lacoste.

The Smythson of Bond Street store at Westfield World Trade Center.
Krystina Gustafson | CNBC
The Smythson of Bond Street store at Westfield World Trade Center.

Westfield invested $1.4 billion in the redevelopment, and retail construction began in November 2014. The center, whose first shops were originally slated to open last year, includes 365,000 square feet of retail space and is fully leased.

Westfield expects the World Trade Center site to generate $1 billion in annual sales.

"We're really excited to be downtown," said Ruby Victor, head of marketing for Smythson of Bond Street.

The London-based luxury label is hoping its World Trade Center store will raise awareness for its brand in the U.S. The company currently has a flagship store on a stretch of Madison Avenue that's popular with international travelers and other tourists.

"It's a different customer downtown," she said.

Digital signage in a corridor at Westfield World Trade Center.
Krystina Gustafson | CNBC
Digital signage in a corridor at Westfield World Trade Center.

Indeed, 232,152 New Yorkers work for the private sector in downtown Manhattan, according to the Alliance for Downtown New York. Though that's roughly 35,000 fewer than mid-2001, it's the largest amount since the end of that year. The mix of these workers has changed since the Sept. 11 attacks, as media and technology companies have moved into the area.

In addition to office workers, some 60,000 residents live in the area, compared with 22,900 in 2000, according to the downtown alliance. The median household income for these residents is $134,756, according to 2014 data, up 14 percent from 2000.

Tourism will also play a role. Nearly 15 million travelers are expected to visit the area in 2017 to see the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and the 1 World Trade Center Observatory.

"A lot of people are coming here every day," said Marine Jegard, public relations manager for Aldo footwear company. "It's the location of the future."

As such, the Canadian brand is launching a new piece of connected technology in its store, which allows shoppers to request a pair of shoes straight from the Aldo app. The feature will launch in 25 additional stores later this week and will eventually be found chainwide.

The central shopping area at Westfield World Trade Center.
Krystina Gustafson | CNBC
The central shopping area at Westfield World Trade Center.

The focal point of the subterranean shopping mall is the 160-foot-tall "Oculus," a design that's meant to evoke the image of a dove being released from a child's hands. The Oculus includes 18-inch glass panels that will open on Sept. 11.

"The World Trade Center is a symbol of hope, opportunity, progress and perseverance," Westfield's William Hecht said in a statement.

The $300 million reinvention of the shops at the World Financial Center, now known as Brookfield Place, opened last March.