The first phase of a massive $200-million expansion project at Queens Center Mall will be completed by the end of the year.
While the project’s main feature—a new four-story wing—is not scheduled to open until mid-2004, construction is nearly finished on a seven-story parking garage near 57th Avenue, according to John Genovese, senior vice president of the Macerich Company, which owns the Elmhurst shopping center.
The garage, which will open by December, will provide 785 additional spots, helping to ease the parking crunch during the holiday shopping season.
Another new feature awaiting holiday customers at Queens Center, Genovese said, is the complete remodeling of the mall’s existing space.
The 605,000-square-foot facility has undergone a dramatic facelift over the past year, with the addition of new escalators, landscaping, flooring and seating areas. In addition, a skylight is being added to the fourth floor atrium level.
The mall’s food court will also be expanded from 10 restaurants to 14. The area will be completely renovated into a bright and airy dining place, with seating capacity nearly tripling from 320 to 900.
All of the internal construction is being performed at night, so as not to disturb customers. Genovese said that when the remodeling is finally complete, it will give shoppers a better idea of what to expect from the design of the new wing.
“There will be a seamless transition to the new mall, so customers will have a sense of what the new project will look like.”
The exterior of the new mall site—which will be located on land adjacent to the current mall at the corner of 59th Avenue and 92nd Street—will be designed like an old-fashioned department store, featuring canopies, airy skylights and the names of different Queens communities in large brass lettering.
The next phase of the project will include the completion of a two-tier retail bridge which will span 92nd Street.
The bridge, scheduled to open in the spring of 2004, will allow vehicles and pedestrians to easily move between the original mall and the expanded site.
At the request of former Borough President Claire Shulman, the bridge will be lined with a number of retail shops.
As another part of the project’s second phase, J.C. Penney’s will open its new 200,000-square-foot, three-level store which will anchor the mall’s new wing.
Once the department store opens next spring, the retailer’s current 137,000-square-foot location will be reconfigured into new mall space which will open later in the year.
In addition to J.C. Penney’s, several new specialty merchants and more than a dozen food court restaurants will open in the expanded mall area in early 2004. The remainder of the wing’s new tenants will open later in the year, as part of the project’s final phase.
Thus far, according to the Macerich Company, nearly 75 percent of available space at the expanded mall site has been leased.
Among the companies that will be located in the mall’s new wing are: American Eagle, Applebee’s, Ashley Stewart, The Body Shop, Cache, Casual Corner, Champs Sports, Coach, Express, Famous Footwear, Finish Line, Guess?, Helzberg Diamonds, Journey’s, Kay Jewelers, Lenscrafters, Limited Too, Naturalizer, New York & Co., Pacific Sunwear, Payless Shoes, Petite Sophisticate, Pulse, Rampage, Rave Girl, Timberland, William Barthmann Jewelers, and Wilson’s Leather.
In connection with the project, a number of existing merchants have also agreed to expand their locations at Queens Center.
Among them are H&M; Forever 21; Footlocker, Kids Footlocker and Lady Footlocker; Victoria’s Secret; The Children’s Place; Aeropostale; Aldo Shoes and Zale’s.
“The exceptional level of interest we have seen in Queens Center is testimony to the strength of this unique property and its standing as the only enclosed regional mall in a trade area with two million people,” said Lori Gatto, Macerich’s senior vice president of asset management.
All told, the expansion will increase the total number of merchants at Queens Center from 69 to approximately 175 and expand the mall’s square footage from 620,000 to nearly 1,000,000.
Plans are also reportedly ongoing to develop a multiplex theatre on the site of a municipal parking lot near 59th Avenue.
The theatre—which would be built by the Mattone Group of College Point—has been a highly contentious idea in the neighborhood for several years with many activists and community leaders arguing that the neighborhood can’t handle the additional congestion.
Repeated phone calls to the Mattone Group’s College Point office for an update on the project were not returned.