Bayside leaders said they hope to see more retailers open shop on Bell Boulevard following the recent closures of neighborhood stores that will soon be replaced by bank chains.
Marretta's, a longtime neighborhood bakery formerly located at 41-06 Bell Blvd., closed in November following three decades on the block, while Payless Shoe Source, formerly at 42-37 Bell Blvd. in Bayside, shut its doors in late August.
Judith Limpert, the Bayside Business Association co-president, said Payless and two empty neighboring storefronts will be transformed into a Bank of America chain site, while at least a portion of Marretta's former locale will also be filled by a bank.
"We are sad to see Payless go," Limpert said. "We need something to draw people to the boulevard. Banks are not a draw — people come, do their business and leave. But this is the evolution. I'd seen all the banks leave Bell Boulevard and now they're coming back."
A sign on Payless' window said that the store was moving to a site on Northern Boulevard.
Jerry Iannece, the former Community Board 11 chairman running for City Council in 2009, said he is not surprised at the resurgence of banks on the boulevard.
"Right now, these are hard economic times, so banks are stable for leases," said Iannece, who is also on Bayside's business improvement district board. "Rents are high on Bell Boulevard. But these things always go in cycles, and I think it's going to get better."
But other Bayside leaders said they would like to have more retailers on the commercial strip.
"We'd like to see some retailers, but they often can't make it with all the big box stores and increasing rents," said Susan Seinfeld, the CB 11 district manager. "A restaurant owner told me that they are going for their liquor license because that's what makes money. So, we either get banks, restaurants or bars."
City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said he thought the city should change its commercial rent laws, which he believes will enable more small retail business, such as clothing and shoe stores, to move in.
"We don't have commercial rent control in this city," he said. "If you just have restaurants, people will only go at certain times of the day. We want to attract people who are looking for different items."
Limpert said she did not see the return of banks to the strip as negative. But she said she hoped the neighborhood would eventually get more stores that customers could travel back and forth to on foot.
"We need stores that will draw pedestrians," she said. "We need more clothing stores that will make people stop and look around and then go look for shoes."
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@time
©2008 Community News Group
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