In 2006, under the guidance of Executive Vice Presidents James Stifel (below) and Claude Chandonnet, Brooks Shopping Centers, LLC, embarked on a major project—to redevelop the beleaguered Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers and make it a favorite place for Westchester residents to shop once again.
While the outdoor mall had a lot of potential, including 1 million square feet of retail space—the most in Westchester—and a location that, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles, is passed by more than 225,000 cars every day, it also had a lot of problems. It looked dated (having opened in 1954 as one of the first open-air shopping mall in the nation), and had a sparse selection of contemporary stores. And it faced stiff retail competition from The Westchester, Palisades Center, and The Galleria at White Plains malls close by.
But the owners knew that Cross County had a long history in Yonkers—one they felt hadn’t been properly leveraged. “The community has a longstanding relationship with this center,” explains Stifel. “Residents constantly approach us with a story about how they were born in the Cross County Hospital, learned to drive in our parking lot, or met at Woolworth’s for a fountain drink.” Stifel and Chandonnet believed that Westchester residents would continue to shop there if presented with a modernized and more enjoyable shopping experience.
Renovations started five years ago under the direction of Macerich Management Company, which Brooks Shopping Centers retained to oversee, lease, and manage the Cross County through its redevelopment and beyond. The entire complex was given a new aesthetic. “There is a new architectural design, reminiscent of something you’d see in Arizona or California,” says Stifel. “And it’s highlighted by beautifully landscaped gardens and seating areas,” which were made more family-friendly with children’s play areas, water fountains, and seasonal events such as outdoor concerts. But perhaps the biggest change was the retailers. Leaders in luxury such as A|X Armani Exchange and Swarovski moved in, and existing stores, like anchor store Macy’s, expanded and completed their own renovations, so that everything inside would be new as well.
Of course, not every part of the redevelopment (which is still ongoing) was easy. The owners had to figure out how to keep the shopping center open for several years during the messy renovations, and how to keep working during severe weather, including snowstorms and hurricanes. The owners also had to work closely with Yonkers government officials to adhere to zoning laws and get redevelopment plans approved. And then there were the finances. The entire project cost in excess of $250 million—not an easy bill to swallow.
But current signs point to the redevelopment’s success. Around 11 million visitors hit the center each year, making Cross County Shopping Center third in customer traffic among the 25 or so Macerich centers that report such data nationwide. Brands such as Zara, Olive Garden, and LongHorn Steakhouse are slated to move into the space over the next year, and construction for a new Hyatt Place hotel is about to begin. Shoppers from outside Yonkers are noticing the positive changes, too. Based on a consumer study conducted in early 2012, 17 percent of the Center’s shoppers now come from Bronxville, Scarsdale, and White Plains, representing new growth in the shopper base compared to pre-redevelopment numbers. As Chandonnet says, “You can see the success of the shopping center in many ways, but the biggest indicator is that we continue to grow and develop.”
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