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106 new stores to open at Queens Center Mall

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The mall opens it doors to shoppers March 27 and n which will house 106 new stores and open to shoppers March 27, With the new 380,000 square foot expansion, the mall will become the second largest enclosed mall in the city.

Built over a period of 20 months, the mall's new 380,000-square-foot beige building is connected to the existing blue-exterior mall by a wide, two-story pedestrian bridge over 92nd Street that houses retail stores.

In addition, four bridges will enable cars to move from the old mall's parking lot, which has 1,109 parking spots, to the new parking lot in the mall expansion building, which has 794 parking spots.

"This was a very complicated project because we've got the existing center, and we had to keep it in operation while we built the new expansion," said John Genovese, the senior vice president of real estate at Macerich Company, which owns the Queens Center mall, along with 55 other malls in the United States. "The pedestrian retail bridge is a very unique element that made logical sense."

Construction of the four-story mall extension building began after Macerich purchased the land for the extension, previously a municipal parking lot, from the city in December 2001. Macerich bought the old Queens Center Mall from Taubman Centers Inc. in 1997.

Another municipal parking lot adjacent to the mall has been purchased by the Mattone Group, LLC development company and is slated to be turned into an 18-screen cinema complex.

"This was a great investment for us," said Genovese. "I'm very excited that seven years later the finishing project is going to be opening soon."

With the opening of the new building and the bridges, the Queens Center Mall will encompass 1 million square feet and house 175 stores and restaurants. It will be the second largest enclosed mall in the city after Brooklyn's Kings Plaza Shopping Center, which covers 1.1 million square feet.

The new mall expansion features a 60-by-60 foot, peaked, octagonal skylight and six other skylights that give the mall an open, airy look. A large skylight was also constructed over the main atrium of the old Queens Center mall during the past year, making the mall dramatically brighter.

Though workers were still shoveling piles of rocks and installing utility lines in the food court of the new mall expansion Tuesday, Genovese assured reporters that the expanded mall would be ready for its grand opening on March 27.

"In construction, everything always comes together at the last minute," said Genovese.

The first-floor food court in the expansion building, called the World Fares Cafes, will house 14 restaurants, including an Applebee's Bar & Grill, a diner and about a dozen fast food restaurants. It will be able to seat 900 people, about three times the capacity of the old food court, which will soon be converted into retail space.

A new, 202,000-square-foot JCPenney will open on March 26, and the JCPenney in the old portion of the mall will be converted into retail space for smaller stores.

Genovese said the new retail space in the mall is 93 percent leased. New stores that are slated to open include Express, Limited Too, the Body Shop, Casual Corner, NY & Co., Sanrio Surprises and Ashley Stewart. In addition, several stores such as the Gap and Foot Locker are planning on opening new, specialty extensions such as Gap Kids and Lady Foot Locker.

Rental prices for retail space in the mall are the highest out of all the malls that the Macerich company owns, said Genovese, in part because the mall is one of the most productive in the country. The Queens Center mall earns about $900 per square foot - about three times the amount of average malls in the United States, which earn $300 to $325 per square foot.

"It's a first class suburban shopping center in an urban environment," said Genovese. "We had a long list of tenants that wanted to come. With the new expansion, we are able to accommodate them."

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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