Thursday, December 10, 2009
Major Shopping Center Nearing Completion
Costco Slated to Replace Home Depot
By Conor Greene
The huge shopping center under construction at Junction Boulevard in Rego Park is nearing completion, but the roster of tenants to occupy the mall remains up in the air, with Costco expected to replace a Home Depot initially planed for the site.
Despite appearing at a recent Community Board 6 meeting to update officials and residents about the project, an official from developer Vornado this week declined to discuss it, citing company policy of not commenting to the media. However, work at the 6.6-acre property, which is also bounded by the Horace Harding Expressway, 62nd Drive and 97th Street, is entering the final stages in advance of an opening this spring.
The 600,000-square-foot shopping center, developed and managed by Vornado and owned by Alexander’s Inc., is adjacent to the Rego Park Mall, which features an Old Navy, Sears and Bed Bath & Beyond. The new four-level center is slated include a 138,000-square-foot Costco, a 134,000-square-foot Century 21 and a 132,000-square-foot Kohl’s. The Costco was included after Home Depot withdrew from the project, and T.J Maxx is also in the process of signing a lease with Vornado for space at the center.
Frank Gulluscio, district manager of Community Board 6, said he plans to meet with city Department of Transportation officials to ensure the shopping center doesn’t cripple the neighborhood. “I am going to meet with DOT to make sure that the plans that were initiated come to fruition,” said Gulluscio. “The impact of that mall is going to be huge, which everyone knew… We’re going to be inundated with traffic, everybody knows that, but this has all been worked out, so we want to make sure everything is in place.”
One big change from the initial proposal is the elimination of two residential towers that were planned when ground was broken at the site in 2006. Vornado has constructed the building so one of the towers can eventually be built when the market rebounds, according to Gulluscio. “It’s definitely on hold, but the footprint is there so they can build them,” he said. “They built what’s there now with the full intentions of having the towers, so all that stuff is ready to go if they decide they can do that.”
The original plans also included space for a Wal-Mart, but that plan was met with opposition from the City Council after word of that agreement began circulating in 2004.
Gulluscio welcomed the switch from Home Depot to Costco, which he says will be useful to a wide range of residents. “There is such a need for a Costco type store in that part of Queens, so this board feels that is a positive thing,” he said. “If you think about that side of Queens Boulevard, there are some small supermarkets, but nothing that can compare to a Costco.”
He noted that residents at recent CB 6 meetings are eagerly anticipating the additional shopping options close to home, which Gulluscio noted should be an “economic boom” for Queens, as many residents currently head to Long Island. “People want it open now, they’ve dealt with the construction, so there is a sense of ‘Ok, let’s get it open now,’” he said. “The fact that we could stop people from going to Nassau County and keep the tax base here, is the beauty of this whole thing.”
While the property is in the City Council district to be represented by Daniel Dromm beginning in January, much of the impact will likely occur in the Rego Park and Forest Hills area that Karen Koslowitz is preparing to represent. Her spokesman, Greg Lavine, said that Koslowitz "plans on working closely" with the community board and Dromm "to ensure that the transportation situation makes sense for the residents of the area."
A traffic study was previously completed, but Koslowitz still wants to follow up with the DOT and community board "to make sure that all issues are looked at, and that any changes that are needed to be made are accomplished in time for the mall opening," said Lavine.
"The opening of this mall really presents a great option for Queens and all of New York City, and we hope this will keep residents shopping in Queens and provides a service that hasn't been here," the spokesman added.
The large anchor stores will occupy space in the mall’s cellar and upper levels, leaving space on street-level for smaller stores and restaurants. Subway sandwich restaurant has signed a lease for one of the storefronts. Since it only recently signed on, Costco isn’t expected to open until the summer.
The center also contains a parking garage with approximately 1,400 spaces and a 2,500-square-foot community center. In all, the project is expected to cost more than $400million. Questions also remain over the construction of a new entrance at the 63rd Street G/R/V subway station, with Vornado currently planning to pay the MTA to complete that project.