After more than a year since the first shovel of dirt was turned, on Friday morning the Tanger Outlets Columbus mall in Berkshire Township officially opened.
The Friday morning opening quickly filled up the mall’s parking lots and led to traffic jams on the highways surrounding it, including U.S. 36/State Route 37 and Interstate 71. At one point, northbound I-71 traffic was reportedly backed up for five miles.
Delaware County sheriff’s deputies had their hands full trying to direct traffic, to keep would-be shoppers from parking along the highways and to allow employees to get to their jobs.
Regarding the mall’s opening weekend, Sheriff Russell Martin said “we are encouraging people the best they can to spread out the visit throughout the day, instead of going as soon as it opens. … It’s going to be there for a long time and the shopping opportunities will be there months from now.”
He added: “We want people to have a good experience and ask that they be patient.”
The project has already had a positive economic impact on the area through the creation of more than 400 jobs during the construction phase, developers said, and the completed center creates more than 900 full- and part-time retail management and sales positions.
The new outlet mall features more than 80 upscale brand name and designer outlet retailers, including Ann Taylor Factory Store, Nike Factory Store, Banana Republic Factory Store, American Eagle Outfitters, Talbots Outlet, Gap Factory Store, and Loft Outlet.
Representing the developer at the ribbon cutting were Steven B. Tanger, president and chief executive officer of Tanger Outlets, and Stephen Yalof, CEO of Premium Outlets.
A host of local and state dignitaries were also on board for the ceremonial ribbon cutting, including Berkshire Township Trustee Bill Holtry, Delaware County Commission Chair Barb Lewis, Congressman Pat Tiberi, Ohio Lt. Governor Mary Taylor, Ohio Development Services Agency Director David Goodman, and Steven Taylor, representing Sen. Rob Portman.
Holtry noted that a little over a year ago the sprawling outlet mall complex was a bean field.
“This has been a long journey,” Holtry said. “Today, we’re seeing the opening of a beautiful mall built by a world-class organization. This community has great schools, Delaware County has great places to golf, and now this will be a great place to shop.”
Lewis remembered the rainy weather during last year’s groundbreaking ceremony in that Berkshire Township bean field.
“Today is gorgeous,” Lewis said. “The sun is shining on the most beautiful mall with great merchandise.”
Lewis noted that Delaware County recently had a positive upgrade to its bond rating, partially due to the economic boost the Tanger Outlets adds to the county.
Tiberi noted the many trials Tanger went through to make the mall a reality.
“Delaware County is the fastest growing county in Ohio, and Simon-Tanger is part of that growth,” Tiberi said. “It was a bumpy road; getting to today wasn’t easy. They could have gone anywhere in the country, but they stuck to it.”
Taylor said the state has been rated number one for middle-market company creation.
“This is what it’s all about, creating jobs for central Ohio,” Taylor said. “This will create 900 jobs here in the state of Ohio, and the credit goes to the people at Simon-Tanger and the investment they’re making.”
Tanger said he was proud that the local community allowed Tanger Outlets to be a part of Ohio’s growth.
“We thank you for inviting us into your home,” Tanger said. “We know the residents of Berkshire Township and Delaware County take great pride in developing their economy. It’s been an interesting ride and a bumpy road getting here, but building deep and lasting partnerships is part of our philosophy.”
Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield, who was unable to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony, said via email that the village of Sunbury is happy to welcome Tanger Outlets to the community.
“These are exciting times for Sunbury and Delaware County, and we think Tanger Outlets is going to make a great community partner,” Hatfield wrote. “We anticipate this to be the first step in what will be a wonderful development at I-71 in Sunbury.”
The mall is the first stage in what will be a reconfiguration of the I-71 36/37 interchange. Interchange modifications will include a second interchange south of the existing interchange. The southern interchange will include NorthGate Commerce Center and link Sunbury via a new roadway — Sunbury Parkway. That interchange upgrade is scheduled to break ground in 2018.
Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093