PEABODY — Inside the Northshore Mall, some shoppers check out the newly remodeled Bath and Body Works or Victoria’s Secret, while others get an early jump on holiday shopping.
Outside, contractors are undertaking the largest renovation and remodeling project at the Simon shopping center in a decade.
By next spring, shoppers will see two new large, sit-down restaurants and several new fast-casual restaurants, all with an emphasis on outdoor dining and open space.
“We started in April in earnest, and we really need to have as much of it as possible completed by Black Friday,” said Mark Whiting, the general manager at the mall. “Largely, we are on schedule, we’ve had a few minor setbacks, but nothing substantial.”
The 2007 mall project focused on the construction of a new wing and the renovation and expansion of more traditional large retailers such as Nordstrom and Macy’s.
This time around, the goal is to create a more varied experience for shoppers as well as current and future tenants.
“We have to be able to work with existing tenants and be able to go out to market for new restaurants and retailers to see if we can incorporate what they are looking for in a business model,” said Whiting.
With the influx of newer-style outdoor shopping centers such as MarketStreet in Lynnfield and Patriot Place in Foxboro, what shoppers and potential tenants seem to be looking for are more varied dining options and more outdoor community space.
The two upscale restaurants, Bancroft & Co., a modern steakhouse, and Tony C’s Sports Bar & Grill, a sports-themed restaurant honoring Red Sox legend Tony Conigliaro, are the centerpieces of the redevelopment and should open in the spring to early summer as overall renovations are completed.
In addition to the two new restaurants, work is underway on an outdoor stage for performances and community events, two new yet-to-be named fast-casual restaurants and one full-service restaurant with al fresco patio dining, new outdoor patios and landscaping, and renovated restrooms at the existing food court.
Whiting said the project is an economic boon for the region, both with the number of construction jobs for the yearlong project and the retail and service jobs the new tenants will bring in.
As work continues, Whiting said one of his main goals is making sure shoppers continue to have a positive experience.
“That’s the challenge, we don’t want the customers, as they walk through the mall, to be able to detect that there is anything occurring from a standards decline,” he said. “The goal for us is to make sure the customer experience is exactly the same, if not better, than what they would be experiencing without the construction.”
Business at the mall has held steady over the past year, Whiting said, and he expects it will only increase once the new tenants are open and ready for business.
“You can’t move kids going somewhere to meet Santa Claus, a mom and her daughter coming here to buy a prom dress,” he said. “You can buy a prom dress online, but is it going to be the same emotional experience? Even back-to-school shopping, in today’s high-tech world, we had fantastic back-to-school sales here. I think it is because moms like to come with their kids and there is something about picking out the outfits, trying them on, it’s an emotional, positive experience.”