The News: NYC Megaprojects Mark Milestones

Curtailed expansion plans and store closures seem to be the most common trend in the retail sector, yet a pair of large-scale retail projects marked milestones just a few miles and hours apart from each other. Muss Development L.L.C. disclosed that a 121,000-square-foot BJ’s Wholesale Club will open this November at Sky View Center in the Flushing section of Queens, N.Y. The 800,000-square-foot shopping center is part of Muss’ Sky View Parc redevelopment project, which will also include six high-rise condominium towers. The developer also announced that a 6,500-square-foot Applebee’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill is scheduled to open there next spring.In the Bronx, meanwhile, the first store made its debut Thursday at New York City’s largest retail project in recent memory. At the $500 million Gateway Center at Bronx Terminal Market near Yankee Stadium, a 121,000-square-foot Home Depot formally opened its doors in a ceremony attended by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other elected officials, as well as executives from Home Depot and The Related Cos., the 1 million-square-foot project’s developer. The mayor called the opening “another great milestone in the ongoing renaissance of the South Bronx,” citing an adjacent waterfront esplanade and public space scheduled to open on the Harlem River this fall. Gateway Center is a redevelopment of the Bronx Terminal Market, a 1920s-vintage wholesale food market that occupied the site.The Queens and Bronx projects have more in common than just timing, locale and backing by leading developers. Both target underserved markets in densely populated markets. Related expects to draw some of the 1.4 million Bronx residents who must travel to outlying areas like Westchester County or New Jersey to find national chain stores. Similarly, Queens’ 2.3 million residents are currently served by only one major mall, and 750,000 people live within a three-mile trade area of Sky View Center’s location. The center is also within walking distance of Citi Field—the New York Mets’ new baseball park—and the USTA National Tennis Center, host of the sport’s U.S. Open.As other centers around the country struggle to hold on to both anchor and in-line tenants, the new Queens and Bronx projects both report brisk pre-leasing. Gateway Center and Sky View Center are 90 percent and 70 percent leased, respectively. The prospect of new centers in densely populated, underserved markets is certainly a lure, but this pair may also benefit from tenant rosters that are chock-full of value retailers. At least six national brands will have a presence at both the Queens and Bronx properties: Bed, Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, BJ’s, Marshall’s, Target and Staples. And Gateway Center’s Home Depot store will be one of only five that the chain plans to open in the United States this year.