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$23M Utopia Center slated to open for biz by year end

A new $23 million mini-commercial center is scheduled to open by the end of the year at the corner of Union Turnpike and Utopia Parkway near St. John's University, according to the center's contractor.

The two-story center, named Utopia Center, will house a Barnes & Noble with a café, a Thriftway drugstore/pharmacy, a Citibank, an ice-cream store called Cold Stone Creamery, several medical offices, St. John's University offices and at least one restaurant.

"It's a very dense area along Union Turnpike and very successful especially for retail, so there's been a tremendous interest for the few remaining spaces we have," said Howard Siegler of GII Construction Co., based in Wantaugh, N.Y., which has been contracted for the project. "There's a very limited amount of retail and some office space left on the concourse level."

The 85,000-square-foot center will have 57 parking spaces on the second floor and 68 parking spaces on the roof.

"Construction work is well underway. We anticipate a one-year process," said Siegler.

In October 2002, construction was temporarily stopped after 10 square feet of earth collapsed in a site adjacent to the center's rear, said Ilyse Fink, a spokeswoman for the New York City Department of Buildings.

Since then things have been quiet, with the heavier work mostly completed, said Siegler.

"We welcome any kind of development as long as it's legal," said Diane Cohen, the district manager of Community Board 8. "We hope that everything will be great. We're looking forward to some new development."       

Siegler anticipated that each retail store would have its own grand opening, and the center as a whole would look into advertising and putting out promotions. Some of the stores, including Barnes & Noble, would probably promote their products within the St. John's University community, Siegler said.

One of the restaurants that the center is negotiating with is Ruby Tuesdays, said Siegler. The restaurant will occupy a space in the corner of the center next to Barnes & Noble.

"Hopefully, by the holiday season, it'll be completed," said Siegler.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by email at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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