I can’t think of a more ideal location for an outlet mall than in front of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in St. George. Empire Outlets will be giving Woodbury Commons in upstate New York a run for their money with over two dozen stores including Gap Outlet, Nordstrom Rack, H&M, Francesca’s, Polo and more. There are over 30 Food opportunities from high end restaurants to outdoor stands with some of the best “food on the go” in all of the five boroughs. The Outlets have been about seven years in the making and are actually about more than just shopping and eating. There are going to be 1200 jobs available once all the stores are complete and 1250 parking spaces for both shoppers and commuters who want to leave their cars in a safe underground garage and take the ferry to Manhattan. Empire Outlets are set to become Staten Island’s biggest employer, breathing new life into its economy.I was lucky enough to attend the ribbon cutting and opening party on May 15th. About 400 developers, press, store executives, media and their families gathered in the center of the promenade with a gorgeous view of Manhattan in the background. Everyone learned about the story behind the development of Empire Outlets. City councilmen and people who worked on this project from start to finish talked about the process from the groundbreaking a few years ago to the choosing of then stores and the layout of the property. The final speaker was Joseph Ferrara, president of BFC Partners, the developer who was really the mastermind behind the building of Empire Outlets. He oversaw the incredibly modern 340,000 square foot, $304 million space. As we go to press, a new slip for the Staten Island Ferry is being built even closer to the stores!The evening’s festivities included a private party in an all glass store space with a view of the Hudson that has not yet been claimed yet. There was a cookie bar just outside the doors that was in honor of National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day–there were about eight different variations of chocolate chip cookies to grab at including a delicious cookie cream sandwich. Everyone was handed gift bags that included white Empire Outlets logo sunglasses and a keychain that included a mini pair of black Jockey underwear. I spent my time grabbing some of the delicious catering and then shopping at the Gap Outlet, Francesca’s, Crocs, Columbia Sporting Goods, Brooks Brothers and Walgreen’s. H&M is the first store that you see when you get off the ferry and it is not open yet but will make an ideal anchor store. It should be opening around July 4th when Nordstrom Rack opens. Restaurants and food chains include Krispy Kreme, Starbuck’s, Nathan’s, Mamoun, Wetzel’s Pretzels, Rice, Wasbi and Artichoke Pizza.For more info, go to www.empireoutletsnyc.com. It only takes 25 minutes to get there from Whitehall Street in Manhattan and of course the ferry is free, which makes a trip there even more appealing.