Center 66 Opens
The highlight reel:
- Award-winning, green design
- Located at the future intersection of subway Lines 1 and 2 (139 Renmin Zhong Lu, Chong’an District, Wuxi)
- Upscale car and fashion brands abound
- Several new Western restaurants
- Wine bar and book store
- Balcony with outdoor seating
- New Western-style supermarket
The project that has been under construction at the intersection of Jiankang Lu and Renmin Lu for seemingly forever has finally opened. Partially. The phase that includes the shopping center, which is the only part that need concern most of us, is complete. Almost. A few stores are still being rolled out and construction workers still seem to be everywhere, ogling the shoppers and the pretty girls and pretty much anyone else who isn’t another construction worker. The other phase of construction also continues, uninhibited by the things that would, in other places, prevent further construction from going on right over the mall, like safety, structural integrity and other irrational concerns of that sort. But these are not the things you will notice as you enter the mall.
You will notice the graceful white of the walkways and flooring and the large amount of natural light let in by the panels that curve down from the ceiling to form a segmented glass shell over the interior. For you environmentally-sensitive shoppers out there, the core and shell are actually LEED-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. The design also won an award for best mixed-use architecture in the Asia-Pacific region from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. The award-winning designers also seem to have put some effort into giving the place a more relaxed, natural feel. On one side there is even a wood and stone temple dedicated to the “town god,” which is set in a courtyard of trees. I suspect that these touches are meant to alleviate, in some small measure, the center’s harsh downtown surroundings.
As is often the case, these harsh surroundings are the price of choosing a convenient location. The mall sits over the future intersection of the future lines 1 and 2 of the subway to be opened at some hazy date…in the future. In the meantime, shoppers can try a bus. There are more than twenty stops within walking distance of the center, about nine of which are within 250 meters of a door. (For more info on that, check here.)
On your approach, you’ll notice that the mall also boasts some outward bling, with Ferrari and Maserati dealerships and a Rolex shop adorning one side. There’s no shortage of luxury brands to be found here. Dolce & Gabbana and Miu Miu are also prominently displayed, while on the inside, there are no less than three different Calvin Klein stores, as well as Wuxi’s second LV store. In case you were worried, Versace, Coach, and Armani are also here. And just to make sure you know what kind of mall you’re in, a couple of small boats are on display near one of the entrances.
The supermarket on the basement floor continues the upscale trend. Ole carries quite a few foreign brands and products, though it may cost you less to go back and get some of them from your home country. Still, it’s worth a stroll through the aisles as the prices for some things are actually pretty reasonable and you might stumble on something you never thought you’d find here. The selection of chips (ahem, crisps for you British folk), for example, is mouth-watering. There are also organic selections for some items, which can be hard to find.
On the other hand, upscale is not always bad. There’s a nifty wine bar on the top floor with open seating so that you can sip wine and watch the shoppers shop. It’s slightly more sophisticated than sipping coffee and watching shoppers shop (which you can also do at what could be Wuxi’s 100th Starbucks). From the wine bar you can go out to the balcony and peruse handmade chocolates. Then you can figure out where you can dock your yacht. Okay, I made that last part up, but the wine and the chocolates are real. When it’s finished, the balcony should be quite nice. However, there’s not much beyond the chocolates to bring people out there at the moment.
What has been bringing people in is the book store, also on the top floor. The book store doesn’t seem to offer anything in terms of selection that Xinhua doesn’t have across the street, but it does offer a loft-like second floor where you can sit comfortably and enjoy your purchase for a while. There’s even coffee, if you prefer a drink and a book to a drink and a chat. The English section of the store is much like the English section at Xinhua, which is to say, eclectic.
Eclectic would also describe the food options in the mall pretty well. There are multiple upscale Chinese restaurants to be sampled, spearheaded by South Beauty. There are a couple of worthwhile Western restaurants coming in as well. Latina and its sister restaurant, Pizzeria Alla Torre, have set up shop on the first and second floors. Latina is a Brazilian churrascaria restaurant, which is a more linguistically accurate way of saying it’s a Brazilian barbecue place. Regardless of nomenclature, it is definitely a good addition to the Wuxi food scene. Just below it is Pizzeria Alla Torre, here to help shore up the foundations of one of the pillars of Western cuisine, the mighty pizza. One of the pillars of Asian cuisine, pho, has snuck in on the bottom floor in the form of a Vietnamese restaurant called Phowow. The all-knowing Internet actually doesn’t seem to know much about this place, so you’ll just have to try it and see.
Perhaps the highest-profile entrance is that of KABB, associated with the Blue Frog in Shanghai. This bar and bistro serves Western basics like steak and roasted chicken and offers seasonal menu items. Their online menu also includes that most magical of food words, “brunch.” Like most good Shanghai restaurants, you can expect to pay a lot, but get a lot. That is, when they open.
We’ve now come to the “miscellaneous” section of the review, in which I talk about stores that have no relation to each other, but warrant mentioning for various reasons. The first is the MLB store, which is a first for Wuxi. The prices (469 for a baseball cap!) indicate that the gear is real, though the caps come in some wonky colors and styles, and you’ll be picking through heaps of Yankees caps to find your team’s stuff. Infuriating. The second is the Lee jeans store. If the prices there are anything like the prices in the store at the outlet mall in Wuxi, don’t bother. Just buy them in your home country and thank me later. The last thing is the Holland and Barrett store. This is a UK health food brand that offers everything from vitamins to protein to natural beauty products. If you’ve been hauling any of those things back and forth on airplanes, it should be worth it to give the store a try.
That’s it for the info we here at City Guide possess about Center 66. For more info, check out the official site here. And please feel free to pass on any information or impressions you may have in the form of reviews, rants, praise, or simply comments.
Center 66 无锡恒隆广场
Renmin Rd and Jiangkang Rd
Find this on Google Maps
Website: Heng Long Center 66