NEW YORK CITY-A high-concept youth entertainment venue that has proved to be a huge hit in Mexico City is moving north of the border in a big way. Kids City will open its first New York location in a 100,000-sf space at the two-million-sf Palisades Center in West Nyack.

Principals Ruben Cors and Xavier Lopez have been on the fence for months, deciding whether to launch their US flagship mini-metropolis in Los Angeles or on the East Coast. As recently as two weeks ago, an unnamed site in New Jersey and the West Nyack location were running neck and neck. The Palisades Center lease was signed on Sunday and the facility is expected to undergo a $45-million build out in time for a spring 2004 opening.

“We chose New York over Los Angeles because it’s a larger market in terms of visitors,” Cors tells Also, more than 50% of our sponsors have an office in New York.”

Palisades Center owner Syracuse, NY-based Pyramid Cos. was self-represented by director of leasing Nicholas King and leasing representative Jonathan Dower in the transaction. Jones Lang LaSalle senior vice president and regional leasing manager William Huelsman represented Kids City in negotiating the long-term lease.

When it opens, Kids City New York will be a built-to-scale indoor environment designed to capture the atmosphere of a real city. Children try on a variety of roles, simulating the jobs, activities and responsibilities of a functioning modern city. They can “work” as a reporter, an actor, a pilot or a chef, among many other available professions. Conversely, they can choose to go the consumer route and visit a beautician, sit on a jury or go on a shopping spree.

“What we will do in that space is build an entire city,” Cors tells “We’ll have pedestrian streets and streets with electric vehicles that kids can drive around. We have six different blocks of buildings. In the suburban area we will have a construction site where kids can move some dirt. Next to that we’ll have a child-sized stadium with 800 seats.” The stadium will be used for sporting and entertainment events and as an ice rink.

Half the Mexico City operation’s operating budget derives from sponsorships, which are integrated into the center and become part of the activities the in which the children engage. The pavilions are backed by real-life brands, products and companies. And the sponsors at the original La Ciudad de los Niños–the Spanish translation of Kids City– are anything but small fry; Avis, American Airlines, Burger King, coca Cola, Domino’s Pizza, Frito Lay…more than 50 companies, most of which are household names, have a stake in the West Nyack project. “Even during the recession the sponsors never pulled back for a second,” the spokeswoman says. “A lot of sponsors have indicated that they want to cross the border and stay with it.”

“For the sponsors, it’s a sort of built-in focus group or product lab, because today’s youngsters are savvy and outspoken about their needs and interests,” says Cors. “The children are focused on the activities and roles they are trying out. They react to a product or brand in terms of how it fits into those activities or roles–and, ultimately, the lives they are building for themselves.”

Located at the intersection of the New York State Thruway and Routes 303 and 59, Palisades Center is four miles from Westchester County, four miles from Bergen County and 18 miles north of New York City. Opened in 1998, its tenant roster includes Lord & Taylor, Filene’s, JC Penney, Restoration hardware and Pottery Barn. The mall also features a 21-screen Loew’s megaplex, an ice skating rink, a six-story Ferris wheel and a carousel. Big-box stores Target, Home Depot also have locations at the facility.

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