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Fit for Queens

Atlas Terminals complex in the New York borough of Queens, once considered a prototype for urban industrial parks, will be anything but when it reopens as a $200 million mixed-use complex for the well-heeled this month.

Renamed The Shops at Atlas Park, the property has been owned by New York-based Atco Properties & Management for 85 years.

Its rebirth began five years ago when Atco began looking at alternative uses for the dying industrial park. Retail seemed logical, with the Queens Center regional mall 2.5 miles away and a retail desert in-between, says Damon Hemmerdinger, a co-owner of Atco and development director of The Shops at Atlas Park.

“We began planning for a different future, not dependent on a dying sector of New York's economy,” Hemmerdinger says. “We'll see if it's a gold mine but it has to get up-and-running before we determine anything.”

His great-grandfather Henry Hemmerdinger first bought the property in 1922 when he moved Atlas Waste Manufacturing from Brooklyn to Queens. The firm collected scraps from the garment district and sold them to businesses before paper towels came into existence.

By the 1950s, the Atlas Terminals industrial park was in its prime and housed the likes of General Electric, Westinghouse and others.

Its reincarnation as The Shops at Atlas Park is within 3.5 miles of nearly 130,000 households with incomes of $75,000.

“The project has raised the bar for the area,” says Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of the retail leasing and sales division with Prudential Douglas Elliman in New York City. “It has created a new destination for better retailers. The borough for shopping after Manhattan used to be Brooklyn; now it's Queens.”

The first phase (shown above under construction), opening April 27, boasts eight buildings, including several original structures dating back to the 1890s, that house 400,000 square feet of retail and 50,000 square feet of office space surrounding a 2.3 acre park called The Green. The next phase will add another 600,000 square feet that could include a hotel, offices and housing, Hemmerdinger says.

Rents range from the teens to about $40 per square foot for the typical in-line tenant. Hemmerdinger expects the center to attract 9 million visitors annually.

Consolo says Queens Center mall could experience some initial fall-off in sales, but there's enough “untapped spendable income that in the big picture, will not be enough to cannibalize the existing retail.”

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