A Nike Factory Store and Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th are among 14 outlet shops opening this month at Assembly Row in Somerville, kicking off the first phase of a $1.5 billion project to transform the former site of a Ford Motor plant into a 22-acre mixed-use development along the Mystic River.
Businesses in the first four buildings of Assembly Row have scheduled staggered openings between late May and October. The retailers launching this month also include Reebok and Clarks. At least six more stores, Brooks Brothers and the Loft among them, will follow throughout the summer.
This stage of the Assembly Row project features 300,000 square feet of retail outlets and restaurants, 100,000 square feet of office space, and 450 residential units. A new 6-acre public park runs alongside the complex near the riverside. It is all part of an ambitious 16-year-old plan by Somerville to redevelop a 129-acre swath of industrial land.
“This is a brand-new neighborhood where one never existed before,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “Around the country, as a lot of projects fell off the shelves, we went forward and we’re going to deliver.
Assembly Row is unique in both its size and proximity to Boston.
The developer, Federal Realty Investment Trust of Maryland, says it is one of the largest construction projects underway on the East Coast. The company also redeveloped the adjacent Assembly Square Marketplace, which includes a TJ Maxx ‘N More, Staples, and Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Assembly Row is a rare outlet mall within a few miles of a major metropolitan city. Retailers typically avoid siting outlets in urban areas because the lower-priced shops can take business away from their full-priced stores. The nearest major outlet mall is in Wrentham, 40 miles outside Boston.
But the growth of off-price retail and consumers’ affinity for discounts, especially following the recession, has persuaded some companies to break from traditional strategies.
The Saks store, at 25,000 square feet, is the largest store opening at the complex. Tiffany Bourré, a spokeswoman for Saks Off 5th, said the company wants to locate stores in both suburban and urban markets.
“There is very little overlap between the Off 5th and Saks customer,” Bourré said, “so this is an extension of our retail platform, and we believe it gives shoppers the best of both full-line and off-price shopping.”
The property will also feature more than a half-dozen restaurants.
Papagayo, a Mexican restaurant, is expected to be the first to open in May. Fuji Restaurant, featuring stir-fry and sushi, and Legal Sea Foods’ new Legal on the Mystic are set for July debuts.
The candy store Sugar Heaven will open in August. Earl’s Kitchen & Bar, a Canadian restaurant serving pizza, burgers, and other comfort foods; Ernesto’s, the popular North End pizzeria; and the French bakery Paul are slated for September.
“The combination of national brands and local fare makes us a very unique destination,” said Russell Joyner, vice president and general manager at Federal Realty.
A 44,000-square-foot indoor Legoland Discovery Center is scheduled to open May 23, next to a 12-screen AMC movie theater that began welcoming audiences last month.
The new Orange Line MBTA Station on the property is expected to begin running in the fall.
Partners HealthCare System is moving 4,500 employees into a 650,000-to-700,000- square-foot office building adjacent to Assembly Row in late 2016.
Additional retail and residential space and a 200-room hotel will be built later, according to the developers.
When completed, the complex will include up to 2,100 residences, 1.75 million square feet of office space, and 500,000 square feet of retail shops and restaurants.