Fremaux Town Center opened its second phase Thursday, nearly doubling the square footage of the retail center on Slidell’s south end that developers tout as a regional draw.
Accompanied by a brass band and confetti cannon, local officials and representatives of Stirling Properties and CBL & Associates Properties Inc. gathered under a huge tent to celebrate the opening of the anchor store, a 26,000-square-foot Dillard’s.
Another 16 stores also opened Thursday, with about a dozen more tenants to come online in the next four to six months, said Townsend Underhill, senior vice president of Stirling Properties.
The new phase is 86 percent leased, he said.
The new stores include Forever 21, Victoria’s Secret, Zales and Bath & Body Works, with Pier 1 Imports, Chico’s, Goodyear and Tesla Motors Charging Stations to come.
Fremaux Town Center opened in March 2014 with 350,000 square feet, anchored by retailers that include Best Buy and Dick’s Sporting Goods. The second phase adds another 283,000 square feet.
The Springs, a 296-unit gated apartment complex that’s being built near the second phase, opened the first of 14 planned buildings in August, with completion slated for the spring.
The 80-acre shopping center takes up less than a quarter of the 400-acre site, said Underhill, who predicted more growth in the next decade.
The first phase is doing “extremely well,’’ according to Underhill, who said a recent sales report showed that stores there were the top performers in a region that includes Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Dillard’s, which has two stores at North Shore Square, the 1980s-era mall on the other side of Slidell, has not announced plans for those locations, spokeswoman Julie Bull said.
However, Slidell Mayor Freddy Drennan has said the company is considering turning one of the North Shore Square stores into a Dillard’s outlet store.
Drennan and St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister spoke briefly at Thursday’s ceremony, praising the vision of the property owners, Robert and Debbie Levis, and the economic boost provided by the center.
The opening of the second phase follows the completion in August of a $3.5 million road that links Old Spanish Trail to Fremaux Avenue; the state-financed project opened another 200 acres to development. Hotels, office space and high-end single-family homes are planned for that area, Underhill said at the time.
Brister praised the center as a jobs generator and noted that St. Tammany’s 5.4 percent unemployment rate is below the state and national averages. The willingness of businesses to invest in St. Tammany shows that it is “the premier place to live, work and play and raise a family,’’ she said.
Michael Lebovitz, executive vice president with CBL & Associates, said retailers tend to follow other retailers who are doing well, so shopping at the center will ensure more growth.
“I’ve already got Pat’s wish list,’’ he said.
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