Retail Rejoices in Puerto Rico

San Juan's first upscale shopping center is here.
San Juan mall

The Mall of San Juan, a 650,000-square-foot luxury mall in Puerto Rico developed through a partnership between Taubman Centers and New Century Development, Inc., opened for business this week, becoming the island’s first upscale shopping center.

The mall is anchored by the Caribbean’s only Nordstrom (at 138,000 square feet) and Saks Fifth Avenue (at 100,000 square feet), and the retail center features a singular collection of retailers, more than 60 percent of which are unique to market.

The Mall of San Juan is three levels and is home to approximately 100 stores and restaurants overall, including Versace, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, Jimmy Choo, Gucci and Omega.

Retail analyst Hector Aponte, business director for NAI Puerto Rico, said the Commenwealth has long been considered as one of the highest price per square footage locations between the U.S. retail sector and the Caribbean, so this was a prime opportunity for the development team.

“We have one of the top malls, Plaza Las Americas, with $800 per square foot in sales, and we have the nation’s top selling stores including JCPenney, Marshalls, Walgreens, Sears, and Burlington among others,” Aponte told Commercial Property Executive. “With the Mall of San Juan, we have the first luxury mall on the island and it’s going to attend and serve the wealthy individuals that like to travel and live in the Caribbean.”

According to Aponte, Puerto Rico has a big underground economy, estimating it at around 31 percent, and while things may be difficult for the local government, it’s not for the majority of the people. Additionally, last year Puerto Rico attracted more than 4 million tourists who contributed more than $3.3 billion to the economy.

Andrew Maguire, a shareholder in the real estate group at Pennsylvania-based McCausland Keen & Buckman, said national retail reports generally show strength in Class A retail centers with strong, upscale anchor tenants.

“By comparison, traditional suburban malls with mid-market department store anchors have been challenged, as the economic woes of those stores continue to mount,” he told CPE. “Often, construction financing is more readily available if the developer has signed leases with anchors and other key tenants.”

The mall is strategically located within a five minute drive from the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, the Hato Rey financial district and top tourist areas like Isla Verde.

“The Mall of San Juan will elevate the shopping experience in Puerto Rico by offering everything from the most sought-after luxury and contemporary brands to incomparable dining and entertainment,” Robert Taubman, Taubman’s chairman, president & CEO, said in a company release. “We’re excited to welcome so many local residents and tourists to what I believe is the most beautiful mall in our portfolio.”