Atlas Park business owners discuss revamp with city

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The owners of The Shops at Atlas Park met with the Department of City Planning days after Borders announced its liquidation last week to discuss how to best to revitalize the beleaguered mall.

Tim Steffan, senior vice president of property management for the shops, did not get into details about the meeting, but said his company wanted to introduce itself to the city.

“It was more of a meet-and-greet to let them know who we were, find out what they wanted out of the project and what failed previously,” Steffan said.

The bankrupt mall, which was snatched up by Macerich in a foreclosure auction in January, had several factors working against it, Steffan said. A weak economy coupled with ineffective marketing and merchandising choices all played a part in the shops’ downfall, he said.

The latest blow to the retail spot was Borders’ announcement that it would liquidate as part of Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. The bookseller currently occupies a prominent corner spot and, according to many, is the anchor for the mall.

Macerich will not even have the opportunity to rent to a new tenant until the bankruptcy has run its course.

“It’s a great space, a great opportunity. No question about it,” he said. “You need to be thoughtful about who you want to put at your front entrance.”

Other reports last week suggested Macerich was discussing a zoning law that would limit options as to what stores it could lease to.

Steffan said the meeting was not specifically about zoning.

But a city regulation currently prohibits Macerich from renting out a space larger than 10,000 square feet to any one company, according to City Planning.

The mall sits in an M-1 zoning district, which prohibits large retail spaces.

According to Macerich’s website, The Shops contain roughly 216,000 square feet of in-line retail space, 142,000 square feet of major and anchor retail space and approximately 41,000 square feet of office space.

The average size of a Target retail store, which workers at the shops and residents said would be a good fit, is 126,000 square feet.

Members of the community have expressed frustration at the lack of changes at the mall, but Steffan said Macerich is taking time to ensure the best mix of retail.

“We are not a seller. We want to create something, and that takes time,” he said. “It is not about finding the first person who is interested in the space.”

The company is studying the reasons why the old incarnation of the mall failed and will implement the requisite changes in order to turn the shopping center into a viable part of the community, he said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 12:01 pm, October 12, 2011
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