Stark: We’re Moving Forward With Shopping Center
At times there have been baby steps and some may not have noticed, but repairs have been ongoing at the Far Rockaway Shopping Center since 2010. That is when the owner and the then-councilman for the east end of Rockaway began negotiations to discuss the mall that is considered the linchpin of the downtown Far Rockaway business district.
Thirty years after the shopping center began going into decline, the owner of the mall, Rita Stark, and now State Senator James Sanders Jr. began talks to revitalize the property in mid-2010. Since then, there have been various repairs including roofing, new awnings near the supermarket, removal of signs, redoing of store façades, repainting of buildings and installation of new security gates. The most visible sign of change was the opening of the new Food Dynasty Supermarket last June. In addition, stores that have been empty for decades are being cleaned out and prepared for new tenants. But the work on the mall will not stop there.
In an exclusive interview with The Wave, Stark spoke about the revitalization of the property that includes a change of name – Mott Center. While the name has been changed legally, it will not go up until the new tenants move in, Stark said.
“We’re definitely moving forward and doing the best we can to prepare for new tenants,” said Stark.
During Easter week, workmen were seen on the roof of the building and storefronts continue to be cleaned out in anticipation of new enterprises moving in.
“We’re negotiating with two or three tenants, hoping things will move forward,” said Stark.
While work was being done before Sandy, things were pushed back because of the disaster.
“It put a standstill to everything,” she said. While the property received only minor damage, the parking lot became a distribution center for emergency goods and services.
“We were glad to make it available,” said Stark. She did say that the old rules that required anyone parked in the lot to use one of the stores, or risk being towed away, will soon be put back into place. Stark promised to consider putting new No Parking signs in more visible places so that drivers will see them when they turn into the lot.
“I think we can make a very positive impact on Mott Avenue,” said Stark. She added, “We want a new beginning for everyone.”
Working with her on that new beginning will be Councilman Donovan Richards, who also worked with Sanders. He will now be taking over the negotiations to bring the shopping center back to life.
“No question, me and Rita Stark are going to sit down and talk,” said Richards recently. He added, “I’m interested in seeing the Stark mall being redone 100 percent… I feel if we can get that done then we can really start turning our business district downtown around for the better.”
Richards has a major concern he will bring up with Stark – bringing locals into the mall as store owners and employees. Richards said it doesn’t have to be every store, but there should some consideration for locals.
“I want to make sure she understands that local hiring is key to me, and we should be fostering and making sure that some people who have been here have first preference as well,” said Richards.
In the meantime, the repair work and talks with potential tenants continue.
“We are showing them Food Dynasty as an example of what we are doing and hoping shortly [to have] new tenants,” said Stark. “We are feeling confident.”