Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Breath of Fresh Air at The Arches

I got an early holiday present last week. Not one to miss a grand opening (or dismiss a fistful of 20%-off coupons), I traveled a short distance from my home on Long Island to Tanger Outlet Center at The Arches, Deer Park, N.Y.

Long Island, with its multi-ethnic population of about 3 million, has no shortage of enclosed malls, strip centers or freestanding stores, but this latest entry injected a literal breath of fresh air into our ho-hum retail choices.

A hybrid of sorts, Tanger’s new 800,000-sq.-ft. outdoor center combines premium outlets, retail, discount stores, restaurants and entertainment. Many of the spaces and most of the restaurants are still dark—but about 70 well-stocked, well-staffed shops and one sit-down eatery, Chipotle, are open.

The fall weather was perfect, and serious shoppers and locals were eager to see what the fuss was about. Because no cars or traffic are visible from within the space, visitors feel as if they are strolling in a small village. A feast of European streetscapes, landscaped promenades, piazzas, fountains, Venetian-style street lamps and covered arches delight the eye. Appealing, sherbet-colored, plaster-fronted buildings of varying heights, with red-tile roofs, shutters and balconies, add to the ambience.

Background sound in the form of live or recorded music was another important ingredient. Colorfully outfitted musicians and street performers interacted with passersby. Amenities included well-marked, clean restrooms, comfortable benches for resting with packages or relaxing with friends and family, attractive landscaping, and translucent panels (or “angel wings” as I like to think of them) over some streets to keep sunlight in and bad weather out.

The entire space is barrier-free and wheelchair friendly. The very visible security force keeps thing smooth, and regular police and at least one EMS worker patrol the center and parking lots on bicycles. A few lucky officers were motoring around on Segway Personal Transporters.

Opening bashes need opening acts, and on Friday night I was swept away by a zillion screaming tweens and teens as American Idol Jordin Sparks connected with her fan base. She, like the entire center, turned in a terrific performance, hitting just the right notes. I gave them both a "10."

By Barbara Hagan
senior desk editor

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