A massive expansion is slated to begin next year for Queens Center mall in Elmhurst.
The current 605,000-square-foot space will be increased by 400,000 square feet. The expansion will cover the existing municipal parking lot directly across 92nd Street. A new floor will also be built on top of the existing building.
The Macerich Co., a Santa Monica-based company that owns and manages shopping malls including Queens Center, has been working with the city and neighborhood groups over the last four years exploring expansion ideas.
“After we bought the property in December of 1995 we studied the market, consulted with our existing tenants, and sent our management staff at the mall to talk with customers and discovered there was a desire to add new accommodating space,” said John Genovese, senior vice president of real estate at the Macerich Co.
Genovese also said that his company has tenants that would like retail space in Queens but have no opportunities because the current space is so limited.
“We are looking at a wide selection of stores but we are still in negotiations. But since we have limited space in the mall, we can only offer one or two stores in a certain category. With the new expansion, we can give customers five or six stores to pick from,” he said.
Between 75 and 90 stores will be added to the expanded space, which will be built in phases over two to three years.
One of the most anticipated additions will be a retail store-lined two-story bridge over 92nd Street that will connect the existing mall with the new structure on the municipal parking lot.
According to Genovese, the expansion plan includes two new entrances on 92nd Street and also a drop-off lane on either side of the street.
“One of the things we discovered is that so many things happen today at that part of Queens Boulevard. We want to create this entrance away from the boulevard to loosen the traffic,” he said.
As one of the highest-performing shopping malls per square foot on the Eastern seaboard, the expansion will be a positive move because of the new jobs it will create and also the new shopping opportunities for residents, according to Dan Andrews, spokesman for Borough President Claire Shulman.
A new parking structure will be built on a portion of the current municipal parking lot that will be connected to the existing structure in the mall through a series of bridges.
“It is designed to alleviate traffic on the street. The bridges should make the parking structures work together,” Genovese said.
But in an already congested area, parking remains an issue with local residents.
A task force has been assembled by Shulman to examine the impact of traffic on the community. The expansion will be one of three major projects coming to Queens.
Plans to build a movie theater in a lot near the mall are also in the works by the Mattone Group, of College Point.
Andrews said the main concern is the traffic situation. The Department of Transportation and the local community board are part of the task force that meets regularly to talk about the traffic issue.
Shulman has asked the mayor to assign traffic control officers for the busy holiday season to alleviate the problem.
J.C. Penney will relocate to a space in the new wing that will be larger and Macy’s is currently in the process of renovating. New dining facilities are also in the works.