2006-04-28 / Front Page

Agreement Reached On Far Rock Shopping Center

After Decades, Owner OKs Redevelopment Plan
By Miriam Rosenberg


The Far Rockaway Mall, located on Mott Avenue, is mainly used as a parking lot as only four stores remain open - including Thriftway Drugs. The Far Rockaway Mall, located on Mott Avenue, is mainly used as a parking lot as only four stores remain open - including Thriftway Drugs. After almost two decades of neglect, the Far Rockaway Shopping Center - long considered the linchpin to the revitalization of the Far Rockaway business district - will finally be redeveloped.

Shopco Advisory Group and the land's owner Rita Stark announced Tuesday that they have come to terms for the development firm to assist Stark in rebuilding the shopping center.

"[I am delighted I] could reach an agreement with an accomplished developer such as Shopco," said Stark in a written statement released by Shopco. "I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship."

Shopco is also looking forward to working on the project.

"Shopco is very excited for this opportunity to work with Rita Stark on these interesting and challenging projects," said Marc Yassky, a Shopco partner, about the deal with Stark, which also includes redeveloping property in Jamaica. "We at Shopco are all native New Yorkers. It is always especially gratifying to participate in the growth of our home town."

A U.S. Military Recruiting Center, Martin's Paint's, Wash and Dry Cleaners and a beauty parlor are among the many former businesses gated up in the Far Rockaway Shopping Center.A U.S. Military Recruiting Center, Martin's Paint's, Wash and Dry Cleaners and a beauty parlor are among the many former businesses gated up in the Far Rockaway Shopping Center. What stores will be built in the center? It's too early to tell.

According to Bonnie Praver, a Shopco spokesperson, the deal "with Stark is so recent that we are still in the early stages of talking to prospective tenants and discussing redevelopment possibilities."

Without elaborating further, Praver said there are various scenarios, but, at the moment, they are all preliminary thoughts.

Stark said she chose Shopco to develop the land because the company has the same vision as she does - to bring a strong retail presence to underserved neighborhoods, such as Far Rockaway, which will meet the needs of its residents, according to her statement.

The 340,000-square-foot shopping center will be redeveloped following decades of neglect.The 340,000-square-foot shopping center will be redeveloped following decades of neglect. Yet, over the years Stark has rebuffed numerous attempts to revitalize or sell the shopping center.

The 340,000-square-foot shopping center was once the home to Waldbaum's, Martin's Paints, a furniture store, an eye doctor, a florist, a clothing store and several other businesses. It now has four active businesses - Thriftway Drugs, Associated Supermarket, North Fork Bank and a drycleaners.

The Far Rockaway Shopping Center fell into decline when Stark's father, Fred Stark - who developed the site more than 40 years ago - died in 1988. The shopping center was the center of a fight between Stark and her brother over their father's assets. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed, but the shopping center's slide continued.

The agreement comes after years of pressure from local politicians, who tried to convince Stark to redevelop and, later, to wrestle the property from her grip.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall has been concerned about the site for a long time according to Dan Andrews, a representative for Marshall.

"The borough president, along with other local leaders, has been trying to persuade Miss Stark to upgrade and develop the Far Rockaway Shopping Center site," said Andrews.

"We expect Shopco to take into account the needs of the community and to develop strategies to help revitalize the Far Rockaway center. We look forward to meeting and working with Shopco."

Councilman James Sanders Jr., who has been fighting to, as he has said many times, liberate the Far Rockaway Shopping Center, remains guardedly optimistic and encourages residents not to get their hopes raised too soon.

"I call on my fellow electeds to join me in seizing the high ground in making sure the deal happens in our life-times," said Sanders, who believes the threat of eminent domain was a factor in bringing Stark to the table.

The deal may have more to do with Stark's fear of losing the property than any desire for revitalization. In February, during his "State of the Rockaways" address, Congressman Gregory Meeks said he was working with the city to declare the shopping center an urban renewal zone.

"That gives us the power to either sell or take the property," said Meeks, who called it an eyesore.

Shopco is a national real estate developer/manager located in New York. Since its founding in 1969, the company has developed or acquired shopping centers, along with residential and office projects totaling more than 17 million square feet of land including Ridgmar Mall in Forth Worth, Texas; Chicago Ridge Mall in Chicago Ridge, Illinois and the development of the Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst.

The company also has served as a third party management and leasing companies for such real estate owners as Lehman Brothers and Chase Manhattan Bank.

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