Driving along the Queen Elizabeth Way, it is hard not to see the Outlet Collection at Niagara.
At 520,000-square-feet and with 102 stores, the outlet mall - which is scheduled to open on May 15 - is designed to attract shoppers and visitors, especially those who might have otherwise crossed the border and headed to places like Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, the Walden Galleria or Boulevard Mall.
At least that's what the mall's developers hope.
"We want this to be part of the Niagara experience," said David Baffa, Ivanhoe Cambridge senior vice president of retail development.
The mall will open just few months before Fashion Outlets completes its $71 million expansion that will see 150,000-square-feet added. It also comes as the Canada One Factory Outlets in Niagara Falls, Ont. continues to add new retailers.
Let the outlet mall retailing battle on both sides of the Niagara River begin.
Outlet Collection at Niagara will change the retailing landscape not only in Niagara-on-the-Lake but the entire Southern Ontario region.
At 520,000-square-feet spread over 63 acres and just off of the Glendale Road QEW exit, the mall with its sleek design is the polar opposite of the quaint retailing feel of Niagara-on-the-Lake's main Queen Street hub. Outlet Collection at Niagara, which Ivanhoe Cambridge developed, is the largest open-air outlet mall in Canada. Its size and development cost, approaching $200 million, makes its one of the largest investments in Niagara-on-the-Lake's history.
Because of its size and location, it has landed several retailers who are new to the Niagara region, including Bass Pro Shops that will be opening a 77,000-square-foot anchor store in November. Other U.S. retailers making their Canadian debut in the mall include: Chico's Outlet, RUD by Rudsak, Michael Hill, White House Black Market Outlet and L'Occitane.
"Those alone should be major draws," Baffa said.
Shoppers will find outlet stores from Eddie Bauer, Brooks Brothers, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors and Old Navy - most of whom also have stores in Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls.
"We intend on becoming one of the area's top tourist destinations, drawing value-seeking shoppers from all over the world," said Bri-Ann Stuart, Outlet Collection general manager.
Outlet Collection is designed to be more than just another retailing destination. Ivanhoe Cambridge went to great expense to add shopper and visitor-friendly amenities as a community event area. The Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce will man a visitor center to help direct shoppers to various tourist-destinations.
The retailers at the mall hired 1,500 people to work at the stores. The hirings are a mix of full- and part-time jobs.
The retailing response to the mall has been better than anticipated, Baffa said.
When it opens on May 15, it will be more than 90 percent leased. Sales per square foot may top $600, based on pre-opening estimates.
Baffa said Ivanhoe Cambridge is already considering an expansion that could bring the mall's size up to 650,000-square-feet.
The stores are the biggest selling point, to be sure. But, so is the visibility from the QEW and the chance to tap into the more than 10 million people who visit the Niagara region annually.
"We got 85,000 cars going by here everyday," Baffa said. "That's a lot of exposure."