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Queens Chronicle

Stability in the offing for newly sold Atlas Park?

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Posted: Thursday, February 3, 2011 12:00 am

The formerly fuzzy future of the Shops at Atlas Park last week became a bit clearer as a Chicago-based real estate investment and management corporation bought the foreclosed Glendale property at auction at Queens Supreme Court for $53.75 million.

Walton Street Capital LLC snatched up the stagnant Cooper Avenue mall space, and according to attorney Paul Millus, the court-appointed receiver, “It’s a good thing for all the tenants involved.”

“It’s a new beginning for Atlas,” he told the Chronicle on Monday.

Millus also said Walton, which did not return several calls seeking comment, must finalize the deal with lending banks Credit Agricole and Societe General, transfer the title and close on the property within the next 30 days. It has been in foreclosure since early 2009, when the Hemmerdinger family, the original owners, defaulted on a loan.

“At the end of the day, the foreclosure judgment might have taken longer, but that’s logistical issues,” Millus noted. “It’s fairly typical of what you experience with large commercial properties.”

Macerich, owners of nearby Queens Center, will manage the new entity, according to City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-MiddleVillage).

“The community welcomes the new leadership with open arms and is eager to help Atlas become an engine for economic growth,” she said.

The mall opened to great fanfare in 2006, but never truly achieved shoppers’ destination status. Vacancies abound, with economic viability relegated to a handful of shops and restaurants such as Chili’s and Shiro of Japan. The Regal Cinemas movie theater has also maintained a consistent customer base at the Shops.

Looking ahead, mall tenants, area officials and community leaders wonder what will become of the beset facility. They see it as an important component of the economic future of several communities.

“The shops have not catered to the community’s needs,” Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) said in an email. While we are not sure how this new owner will handle the property, I am cautiously optimistic that we will see the creation of new businesses that my constituents can afford to patronize.”

Several ideas to attract consumers to the mall have been proposed in recent years. Community Board 5 District Manager Gary Giordano has suggested recreational space such as a bowling alley, in light of the loss of Woodhaven Lanes in 2008.

“It’s a beautiful place,” he said. “It would be better if more attractive businesses were put there — stores that appeal to the 14- to 25-year-olds. There’s a lot of shopping around here. You have to bring things that they can’t necessarily get somewhere else nearby.”

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said he’s “a fan of Atlas Park,” in part because of the mall’s job-creating potential, and is looking at the latest act in its saga “with a sense of optimism.”

“The economic times have taken its toll on the stores there,” Addabbo noted. “It’s a potentially viable destination that benefits the surrounding communities.” In that vein, Addabbo asserted that the mall can go in different directions: land recognizable “anchor stores” found in most large retail properties, or re-brand Atlas as an “outlet destination” that can provide brand-name merchandise at discounted prices.

Additionally, Addabbo said most of his constituents are still “bothered by the paid parking. That will have to be addressed.”

Shiro co-owner Peter Faccibene said he’s “excited about the future now” since learning of the sale. “We have a strong base and good following, but we need that extra traffic,” he related.

Welcome to the discussion.