Forget the clowns, and balloons. The owners of the Oculus mall spared no expense for its long awaited opening Tuesday.
Hundreds of commuters, shoppers and 9/11 families gathered under the transit hub’s massive skylight to check out the new shops at the Westfield World Trade Center, including an Apple store, another Eataly and a Banana Republic.
For many, this marked an important milestone in lower Manhattan’s continuing recovery from 9/11.
“It’s about rebuilding and giving people hope so we can move on,” said Keith Bracker, 35, a filmmaker from New Jersey, as he passed by the mall.
The ceremonies included a color guard and a day filled with performances from big acts including former “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr. The Tony winner, who performed “The Room Where It Happens,” was amazed with the 365,000-square-foot space, which is highlighted by the white steel wings that stretch to the roof.
“It’s so beautiful,” he said to a cheering crowd.
John Legend later surprised the crowd with a performance of his own.
There are over 100 stores and restaurants located throughout three floors of the transit hub. Over 300,000 daily commuters walk through the Oculus to and from the PATH train and 11 subway lines.
Caroline Anderson, the manager of the Breitling store on the main level, said she wanted to be part of this one-of-a-kind location with such robust traffic.
“This is an up-to-date, modern concept,” she said of the Oculus. “It’s a sumptuous setting.”
Shoppers agreed. Arthur Ducret, 29, of Paris, said the mall gave even the most everyday of stores a different feel.
“It certainly looks different from the other [Apple] stores in the city,” he said.
Westfield USA COO William Hecht said the company owned the mall that was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks and wanted to help the community rebound. Although the Oculus was hit with delays and increasing costs, Hecht said his team was determined to bring the commercial sector to the neighborhood.
“I can’t tell you how much effort was put in by the employees,” he said.
For those who had a connection to the World Trade Center, the wait was worth it. Christal Putkowski, 65, of Staten Island, worked in Tower 2 during the 1993 and 2001 attacks, and said she was happy to see the site once again become a bustling environment filled with smiling faces.
“Everything had to fall in place,” she said. “They had do it right and they had to do it nice.”