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Shopping Complex for Area Short on Retailing

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An artist's conception of the retail building to be known as the Junction.

3-Story Shopping Complex for Area Short on Retailing

By MARCIA BIEDERMAN | October 13, 2004

While many parts of Brooklyn have been experiencing well-publicized revivals, this is not the case in the worn commercial area at the intersection of Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues in the Midwood section.

Now, however, a Queens developer is preparing to construct a three-story retail complex anchored by a Target store on the site, formerly owned by the city and now home to two parking lots. He expects the project to have a far-reaching impact.

"The potential is tremendous," said Lester Petracca, the principal of the Triangle Equities Development Company of College Point. Triangle expects to open a sleek 280,000-square-foot shopping center in the fall of 2006 near Flatbush Avenue's jumble of fast-food restaurants and bargain clothing stores. The projected cost is $70 million.

Target will occupy about 200,000 square feet on the second and third floors. Mr. Petracca said that his company hoped to lease the ground floor to restaurants and nationally known retailers and that it expected to draw shoppers from throughout central Brooklyn.

The development, which will also have a five-level public parking garage, is to be called the Junction. It takes its name from a local nickname for the intersection, a transportation hub where buses congregate and the No. 2 subway line terminates on Flatbush.

Mr. Petracca sees this slice of central Brooklyn as ripe with untapped potential. "There's affluence there," he said. "We don't see this as a low-income area at all."

Diverse both economically and ethnically, the surrounding neighborhoods encompass tree-lined streets of single-family homes as well as blocks of shabby rental units.

Target has two other stores in the borough, both opened within the last two years. The newest is in the Atlantic Terminal retail center in downtown Brooklyn, which opened during the summer. The other is in the East New York section, in the Gateway retail center. Like the Junction project, the Gateway center was built on land previously owned by the public.

Although Brooklyn is the city's most populous borough, it ranks near the bottom in service by retailers. In 2002 Brooklyn had 9.4 square feet of retail space per person, compared with a citywide average of 15.9 square feet, according to the city's Economic Development Corporation.

Still, the Junction project had to deal with public wariness during a lengthy public review process. Triangle Equities won the bid to develop the property four years ago, but the sale of the city-owned land for $2.15 million was not completed until June. In addition to the two parking lots, the triangular property, bordered by Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues and Avenue H, includes air rights over a freight-only rail cut owned by the Long Island Rail Road and operated by the New York & Atlantic Railway.

In contrast to other Brooklyn developments that have ignited local opposition, this one seems to have placated its critics. Terry Rodie, district manager for Community Board 14, praised the developer for changes made in response to community concerns. "We're pleased they were receptive to us," she said.

One modification, related to traffic issues, involved the relocation of berths for trucks making deliveries to the shopping center.

Another particular concern, Ms. Rodie said, was the potential loss of parking. Though poorly maintained and often occupied by the homeless, the municipal lots scheduled for demolition provided a necessary service. Brooklyn College, with 15,000 commuter students, is just a few blocks from the site, and people who drove to events at the college often relied on the lots.

The public parking garage to be erected will supply hundreds more spaces than the existing lots, though perhaps at a higher price. Mr. Petracca said the garage would be managed by a private company, which he declined to name.

Further cultivating its good-neighbor image, the developer plans to offer free parking to Brooklyn College on the property until construction begins. Groundbreaking is not scheduled until spring. Mr. Petracca said designs for the retail center were being redrawn to accommodate Target, which came on board only about one year ago, after other prospective anchors withdrew.

The developer was encouraged by the community board to take an active role in the creation of a Business Improvement District along this portion of Flatbush Avenue. Through the BID, businesses will be expected to contribute to efforts to spruce up the area with better lighting, more attractive storefronts and improved security.

At present, the area is not always an easy place to conduct business. The Canal Jean store on Nostrand Avenue, across from the development, is said to have struggled since its opening in 2001 and it recently closed one of its two selling floors.

"As the largest contributor to the BID, we'll have a huge impact on the area," Mr. Petracca said. He also predicted that the Junction would have a ripple effect on nearby shopping areas. "The project will act as a gateway into the Flatbush retail corridor," he said.

From The New York Times

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