The downtown Flushing Caldor site will be covered in a glass facade when it opens as a mall in early 2003 in an ambitious project that already has piqued the interest of the Gap and several other national retailers, the developer said Monday.
John Chen, president of 724 Management Corp., told the Flushing Chamber of Commerce he and Vornado Realty Trust had drawn up a new contract for his groups purchase of the 165,000-square-foot site at the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and Main Street.
The new contract calls for Chens group to lease the property for 35 years for $19 million. 724 Management had sought to purchase the lease for 50 years, and Vornado had originally made an offer for 24 years.
Although the deal between the two has not been closed, Chen said his group of investors already had drawn up definite plans for the property, a mall to be named the Flushing Expo.
The Flushing Caldor store shut down in 1999 when the company went bankrupt. Two years earlier, the F.W. Woolworth store next to Caldor closed.
The site has been criticized as an eyesore since Caldor closed. Community leaders have been anxious to see the property developed, since it sits at the busiest corner in downtown Flushing.
At the Monday meeting, Chen said he plans to spend $500,000 to construct a glass facade to cover the outside of the brick building, making the structure similar in appearance to the Flushing Library.
Hopefully, by the end of this year the building will have a totally new exterior, he said.
Chen said Macys and Old Navy, the two neighboring stores, had agreed to construct a walkway to the mall.
About 65,000 of the available 100,000 square feet are tentatively rented, Chen said.
Several national chain stores have expressed serious interest in the location, Chen said.
The Gap has signed a letter of intent to open in the mall, according to Chen, and Shiseido, a national cosmetics store, and the Childrens Place, a childrens clothing store, also plan to come.
In addition, Nathans will open in the food court. Wendys, which left Flushing after five people were massacred in its restaurant on May 24, 2000, is considering coming to the mall, Chen said.
But Barnes and Noble, a store after which many Flushing residents have lusted, rejected an invitation to join the Flushing Mall. Chen plans to approach Borders instead.
The mall will have a fitness center and Internet café, both to be open 24 hours a day, as well as a dance studio, Chen said. He also hopes to have seasonal exhibitions in the open areas of the mall.
One of our goals is we want to make it a place for people to meet, Chen said.
If the mall is successful, 724 Management would consider adding three stories for an additional 90,000 square feet to be used as community facilities. Such an addition is projected to cost $12 million.
Chen said his group plans to pay half of the $19 million lease upfront, with the remainder made up by loans. His group is made of seven different investors, many of which are Flushing businesses planning to relocate in the mall.
At the chamber meeting, several audience members questioned Chens plans.
Pauline Wilson, president of the Cedar Park Homeowners Association, said she was not sure whether Flushing needed another mall.
For the space that we have on Roosevelt Avenue, it seems a bit wasteful to have what we already have, she said.
Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.
©2002 Community News Group
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