BY COLIN MIXSON
The long-awaited debut of the Oculus transit hub’s retail stores drew massive crowds into the splendor of the $4-billion Santiago Calatrava-designed concourse, where locals as well as tourists gawked at the new mall’s many high-class outlets.
“I like upscale window-shopping,” said Stuyvesant Town resident Jacqueline Seltzer.
Seltzer was lured to the opening by a promotion offered by cosmetic retailer Kiehl’s, which opened along with dozens of other up-scale shops at noon on Tuesday, and provided the 50 first customers with coupons valued at up to $500.
Seltzer was a little late to the action, however, and found herself in the back of a massive lined headed by Queens resident Nong Louie, who arrived at 8:30 am to snatch the promo coupon for a dear friend.
Roughly 60 retailers were prepared to open during the mall’s grand debut at noon, although a few only made it by the skin of their teeth. Workers could be seen scrambling to make the final adjustments to showrooms inside Bose, Links London, and Swatch, among other straggling shops.
But even those tardy retailers beat out the remainder of the 120 total shops slated to inhabit the massive, 365,000-square-foot Westfield World Trade Center complex, of which the Oculus is merely the centerpiece. The vast shopping center, which includes street-level retailers at WTC towers 3 and 4, along with subterranean galleries that run throughout the WTC campus.
The Oculus itself has been subject of considerable controversy over the course of its tortured, decade-long construction. The concourse, which was originally slated to debut in 2009 and cost roughly $2 billion, was opened without fanfare — or retailers — in March and ultimately ballooned in cost to $4 billion. The main entrances at either end of the hub’s spiny spine on Greenwich and Church Sts. finally opened on Aug. 16.
But the boondoggle was largely forgotten by the hordes of consumers that descended from far and wide to witness the mall’s opening, according to Louie.
“It was probably over budget and, to be honest, I know some people working on it and there’s been some issues,” he said, “but generally speaking I think it’s a positive for New York and for this area.”
Among the many retailers open on the big day included Lower Manhattan’s first and only Apple Store, which alone can be expected to draw tech-lovers from as far as Jersey, who, courtesy of Oculus’s combined shopping and transit amenities, is only a few PATH stops away, according to one Jersey resident.
“It’s only two stops to get here from Jersey City,” said Cory Dawson, “So it’s the closest Apple Store to me. These shops are literally the fanciest and closest to us from Jersey City, so it’s really convenient.”
Dawson moved to New Jersey just last week from his apartment on West St., just blocks away from the Oculus.
When he first moved to Downtown in 2014, another nearby tony shopping center, Brookfield Place, had yet to fully open and locals were forced to head uptown to enjoy any kind of upscale shopping, he said. But in the brief span of a few years, the neighborhood has reinvented itself from a retail desert into a shopping destination.
“Back then, Brookfield had its food court open, there was a Whole Foods, but there was no retail shopping really,” Dawson said. “It’s definitely a more complete package now. If you want to live in this area, you don’t need to go uptown for high-end fashion or electronics — or anything really.”