As for the Empire Outlets, BFC has so far leased about 40 percent of its 350,000 square feet of retail space. But playing off the idea that outlet malls double as tourist magnets, the property will offer more than just shopping. It will also include a 40,000-square-foot food and beverage deck with views of the New York City skyline.
Restaurant and bar space—all of which will be open until at least 2 a.m.—will include a branch of Las Vegas dumpling and noodle house Yong Kang Street. And for people who want to make a night of it, the property will house a to-be-announced boutique hotel.
Empire Outlets is also partnering with Bags, a TSA-compliant luggage check-in service that will transport travelers' checked bags—and new purchases—directly to their airplane.
Combined with the site's neighboring stadium for the minor league Staten Island Yankees, and a forthcoming 60-story observation wheel that's expected to attract more than 4 million visitors each year, Ferrara said the revitalized borough will give the 22 million-plus passengers who ride the Staten Island Ferry each year a reason to stick around.
He predicts the center will draw an additional 10 million new visitors to the island annually.
"Three million tourists a year use the Staten Island Ferry. The majority of those people turn around and go back," he said. "There [weren't] any offerings ... on the Staten Island side."
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Despite the rapid growth of outlet centers, some industry experts have expressed caution that as rents rise, they may not be a profitable long-term solution for retailers. HRC's Efros said that while those concerns are valid, she hasn't yet seen evidence of this.
For Empire's part, though the center is located closer to the city than some of its competitors, its rents still come in at a discount to stores in lower Manhattan, where average ground-floor asking rents are $394 a square foot, according to Cushman & Wakefield.
"That's a pretty compelling reason to have someone open their shop at our center," Ferrara said.