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New stores await OK to open up

Banana Republic’s plans to join several other new retailers at the Bay Terrace Shopping Center may not pan out, the developer who owns the property told a Community Board 7 meeting Monday night.

A spokesman for Cord Meyer Development, Inc., which owns the sprawling retail center, said deals to bring retailers into the shopping center, particularly Banana Republic, had been shaken by the long approval process required for changes to the property.

The question of which new retailers would occupy space at the Bay Terrace Shopping Center in addition to the issues of traffic in the surrounding community, increased parking and pedestrian access were just some of the subjects addressed at the CB 7 meeting at the Union Plaza Nursing Home on Union Street.

Spokesman Scott Mollen said Cord Meyer has worked with CB 7 and the city to gain approvals for the upgrading of the center at the intersection of 26th Avenue and Bell Boulevardfor 1 1/2 years.

“We have been very, very frustrated by this,” Mollen said. “We can’t promise [retailers] an occupancy date.”

Cord Meyer plans several big changes for the retail center, Mollen and other reps said, including a 220-space parking garage to be built in the southwestern corner of the property, a reconfiguration and revamping of the center parking lot and the addition of several attendants to help direct traffic. Cord Meyer rep Peter Galletta said the company was also studying the addition of a shuttle bus to take people around the shopping center and eliminate pedestrians crossing the wide parking lot.

Because the city has been slow to give a green light to the planned changes Mollen said Cord Meyer has been unable to offer a definitive date for new stores to enter the retail center and some deals have fallen through.

He said the Banana Republic entry was “not firm yet.” Other stores expected to open in the shopping center include Men’s Warehouse and an expanded Child’s Place.

Mollen and two other representatives seemed to get little sympathy from the 60 or so residents who attended the meeting, most of whom appeared to live south of the shopping center in Bayside.

Residents of 212th Street in Bayside, which borders the 26th Avenue side of the shopping center, brought a 200-signature petition opposing a recent move by Cord Meyer that shifted a parking lot entrance/exit to directly align it with the quiet, narrow street two weeks ago. The entrance/exit had been set between 212th and 213th streets.

Residents contend the new entrance/exit will allow drivers to circumvent the more heavily trafficked Bell Boulevard and use their quiet street to cross 26th Avenue and drive directly into the shopping center. Those living in the area loudly opposed the addition of a traffic light at the intersection of 212th Street and 26th Avenue and some yelled at the Cord Meyer reps to put the 212th Street entrance back where it was.

Mollen emphasized the city Department of Transportation had requested that the company move the entrance/exit before doing a traffic study of 26th Avenue. Several community groups, including the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, requested the study to find ways to reduce speeding cars on 26th Avenue, which runs from Bell Boulevard to the Clearview Expressway.

Barbara Jobo, head of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said her group had asked for the 26th Avenue traffic study but insisted it had nothing to do with a request for a 212th Street traffic light.

“The Bay Terrace Community Alliance never asked for a traffic light,” she said. “We stand by our neighbors.”

Mollen, CB 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty and the other Cord Meyer reps appeared to have little patience or empathy for the 212th Street residents or Bernard Haber, chairman of neighboring Community Board 11 in Bayside. The dividing line between the two boards lies in the center of 26th Avenue with CB 7 covering the Bay Terrace Shopping Center property.

Haber, a more than 30-year veteran of CB 11, told the audience the two community boards had worked out a compromise in the 1970s to force most of the shopping center traffic to use Bell Boulevard or Corporal Kennedy streets, which are bigger, less residential streets. At the time, Haber said, Cord Meyer was seeking to construct several hi-rise apartment buildings in the area.

The original proposal, Haber said, was supposed to protect the quiet, residential atmosphere of 210th, 211th, 212th and 213th streets. When Haber, who said the current Loews Movie Theater at Bay Terrace already creates extra traffic on those streets, suggested the planned parking garage might make the problem worse, Kelty shouted at him.

“They're public streets,” Kelty said loudly into the microphone. “I’m sorry to say, but there’s going to be a lot of traffic all over.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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