At the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station, formerly known as Walt Whitman Mall, a plan years in the making is finally coming to life.
"It's been a lot of work, but it's a very exciting transformation," said Francis Scire, assistant vice president of leasing for Simon Property Group, who has been working on the project for two and a half years.
The plan, which includes adding up to 30 new stores and at least three new restaurants in 2013, will give the mall an outdoor and indoor presence and a downtown shopping feel, Scire says.
The shopping center will extend 40 feet outward from where it currently stands and will include a pedestrian walkway and a new row of shops and eateries facing Route 110.
Standing out to passersby on the busy road is a main goal, Scire said, estimating that 50,000 cars drive by each day.
The row will include Italian restaurant Brio Tuscan Grille, which will have outdoor seating, Chinese restaurant P.F. Chang's, which will have patio seating looking out at the mall, Cups Frozen Yogurt and upscale burger and wine spot Zinburger. In between will be a Brooks Brothers flagship store, a two-level Urban Outfitters, Carhartt and a Pottery Barn that will sell Pottery Barn Kids and West Elm (the only location on Long Island to carry the full line of products).
Construction started south at the Bloomingdale's entrance and is moving north toward Lord & Taylor. It is expected to be completed in stages between August and November.
"We wanted to have distinctive shops that are unique to the center as well as the favorites that people want to see everywhere," Scire said, adding that they still aim to keep Walt Whitman a small, tranquil shopping environment.
Inside, anchor stores Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdale's will stay put, though they, too, are remodeling. Lord & Taylor revamped its shoe section and is working on handbags next, Scire said, and Bloomingdale's is currently refurbishing its first floor and will have a new home for Burberry, Fendi and Ferragamo collections.
"Everybody's raising their standards and freshening and wanting to be a part of it," says Deborah Weber, Walt Whitman Shops' general manager.
The mall will be reorganized, putting core stores together on one end and clustering contemporary and upscale stores on the other. Some leasing is still in the works, but confirmed newcomers are furniture company LoveSac, opening this spring, C. Wonder, Kate Spade New York, Lululemon and Hugo Boss, opening this summer, and Lucky Brand Jeans opening this fall. Starbucks will expand from a kiosk into its own storefront with a larger menu.
There will be more parking, new lighting structures including a chandelier in center court, a statue of poet Walt Whitman welcoming shoppers, new seating and indoor and outdoor landscaping.
"There will be elements of the North Shore and elements of the Hamptons," Scire said. "It's going to feel like a brand new shopping center."