You may notice many more cars than usual merging off Interstate 40 at the Fayetteville Road exit today, thanks to the official opening of the Streets at Southpoint mall. Officials expect 400,000 shoppers from Asheville to Wilmington to visit the center in its first three days of business.

"I'm not particularly sure what stores are there, but I'm from New York City, and I'm used to having big stores. They really weren't prominent in Durham before," said Duke junior Toni Peters, who plans to shop at Southpoint at its grand opening.

The mall includes a 16-screen movie theater and 140 restaurants and stores--25 that are new to North Carolina and 40 to the Triangle. The Nordstrom department store is the first of its kind for the state. "We are the new kids on the block, so we hope a lot of people will turn up and give us a try," said public relations representative Amy Jones.

Although it will offer 60,000 different pairs of shoes and 1,800 different neck ties, Nordstrom will not be holding any sales.

"We really believe in promoting everyday fair values and our customers always getting the best prices," Jones said.

But the new mall will provide more than a wide shopping selection; Nordstrom has hired 250 people from the local community. In total, the mall will provide 3,500 full-time jobs and 5,000 during the holiday season. According to spokesperson Jessica Blue, the mall expects to generate $300 million in annual revenue.

"It is going to set a mark for the level of shopping in the region," said Durham Mayor Bill Bell, adding that the mall will help the city's economy by increasing sales tax revenue and creating more jobs.

Even representatives from other shopping areas are optimistic about the Triangle's first new mall in 23 years. "It's good for the area in that it brings employment. The Triangle certainly is in need of employment," said Christy Alphin, spokesperson for Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh.

Despite the Southpoint exclusives, like Nordstrom, Apple Computers and Champps Americana restaurant, Alphin does not expect Crabtree and other malls to suffer. "We're not naive to the fact that there's going to be a honeymoon period. It's the nature of being people," she said. "Still, I think people will settle back into the things that they're used to, and Crabtree will remain their weekly destination."

Chris Dawson of Raleigh said his family frequently shops at the malls closer to home and will continue to do so. "I'm sure that Southpoint will have a novelty factor for a year or so, but I would suspect that given the distance, [the malls in Raleigh] tend to be a bit more convenient," he said.

Durham's South Square mall, however, has suffered as the majority of its stores have closed or are soon moving to Southpoint.

"I think it has some long-range implications for the city if they don't come up with a viable reuse for the [South Square] space," said Vann McNeill, Durham's deputy director of housing and community development. "I'm not sure the population has grown as progressively as other cities to support a mall of [Southpoint's] size." But he said the increase in entry-level service jobs and store quality will help the economy.

Blue pointed out that the construction of Southpoint has provided an incentive for other malls to renovate. Last year, the Cary Towne Center renovated its food court, and Northgate Mall made improvements as well. "The way we see it is that having competition enter the area is great for shoppers because all the malls are improving," she said.