(Bloomberg) -- Prosecco and tequila flowed freely Thursday evening at dozens of bars inside the packed Shops at Hudson Yards, the new $2 billion mall that opened to the public this week on Manhattan’s far west side.
Early in the night, on the first floor of the shopping center’s star anchor -- New York City’s first Neiman Marcus -- the man behind it all stood near the Christian Louboutin section and watched as Instagram influencers snapped selfies and caterers passed out tiny tacos and bite-sized ramen burgers. Britney Spears’s “Toxic” was blasting in the background.
“It’s not about a building. It’s not about the retail. It’s a lifestyle.” said Stephen Ross, chairman and founder of Related Cos., which is developing the $25 billion Hudson Yards project with Oxford Properties Group.
The invitation-only event drew thousands of Instagram influencers, fashion designers, models, buttoned-up real estate executives and some celebrities -- Broadway star Lin-Manuel Miranda and actresses Anne Hathaway, Katie Holmes and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Even Senator Chuck Schumer made an appearance.
“I grew up across the street,” Whoopi Goldberg, who returned to television Thursday after a bout with pneumonia, said while standing next to cases of shimmering jewels on Neiman’s third floor.
The neighborhood was drastically different when Goldberg was a kid. For years, it served as a storage yard for trains -- an industrial wasteland devoid of shops and office workers. Now it’s a small city of glimmering new skyscrapers, apartment buildings, restaurants and stores.
The handpicked guest list at the party made the Shops at Hudson Yards look like a success, but the question is whether average New Yorkers and tourists will frequent the mall -- which officially opened Friday -- or see it as a sterile, upscale tower cut off from the rest of the city.
Like many malls striving to differentiate themselves, Hudson Yards has put an emphasis on experiences. As guests poured through the glass entrance of the 720,000-square-foot (67,000-square-meter) retail tower on Thursday, they were greeted by a blaring drum line. Later on, they danced along with the Syncopated Ladies, a female tap-dancing group -- a taste of the cultural offerings planned at the development.
After a game of Skee-Ball inside Neiman Marcus, tipsy visitors headed to the shopping center’s sequin wall to draw names and patterns with their fingers.
“People will say, ‘Oh, I just shop online,’” said Mary Ann Reilly, who leads marketing efforts in North America for Visa Inc., one of the development’s sponsors. “But there’s still nothing like going in and touching and feeling things. This is a destination.”
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