NEW YORK — The Shops at Atlas Park, the city’s first lifestyle center to be located in Glendale, Queens, in 2005, is an experiment for sure.

For retailers, it’s largely untested territory and well removed from more familiar grounds in the borough, like Austin Street in Forest Hills, or Queens Center on Queens Boulevard. As the crow flies, the center is 5 miles from Columbus Circle, according to officials.

Within its projected 375,000 square feet for retail, the plan calls for 60 stores, including several as small as 500 square feet and two or three that could contain 20,000 to 30,000 square feet. Most are envisioned as being less than 10,000 square feet.

Damon Hemmerdinger, the project’s development director, said the local demographics are heterogeneous. “There are many people who will not be able to afford the goods, and many who can afford the goods. There are 43,000 households earning over $100,000 within a 3 1/2- mile radius. That’s a huge density.”

He envisions a tenant mix of two-thirds national chains, similar to the makeup of other lifestyle centers, including those selling fashion, books and home furnishings and restaurants. About a third could be local tenants. Atlas Park’s leasing team is targeting retailers of men’s, women’s, teens and kid’s wear, jewelry, shoes, fashion accessories, housewares, gourmet foods and a variety of cafes, bistros and restaurants. The project will also include a six-screen cinema.

The customer draw is expected to be primarily from central Queens, with the core market including Forest Hills, Astoria, Kew Gardens, Glendale, Middle Village, Maspeth and Rego Park, and possibly western Queens, such as Astoria. Fall 2005 is the anticipated opening for the project, which is owned and operated by Atco, a family-owned real estate business with limited retail experience but with a long track record in commercial property in the city.

Asked what makes The Shops at Atlas Park a lifestyle center, Hemmerdinger said, “It’s open-air, not enclosed. It will attract the kind of tenants that are typically in lifestyle centers, and there is a higher-than-normal attention to architecture and design, compared to a strip center.”He also said there will be a small amount of convenience parking in front of the stores, as well as a 1,400-car parking structure, and a 2.5-acre park, with events possibly taking place there on weekends.

Hemmerdinger acknowledged that The Shops at Atlas Park won’t be an instant sell to retailers. “They are feeling a bit uncertain about this new market,” he said, adding that it’s not like trying to sell Michigan Avenue in Chicago or New York’s Madison Avenue. “We do have to explain the market to them. There’s no simple demographic ring. Retailers have to be willing to really learn the market,” he said.

However, the owner, Atco Properties & Management Inc., is very familiar with the area, having owned the land for 80 years. Atlas Park, formerly known as Atlas Terminals, contains 40 manufacturing and warehouse buildings, including apparel knitters and distributors of medical supplies and candy. Several are vacant and eight are being converted for the project. Atco owns and manages commercial, industrial and residential properties and provides real estate services, including tenant representation, consulting, management, construction and investment.

“The motivation for this project is to do something in response to the decline in the manufacturing base,” said Hemmerdinger.

Describing the architectural vision, Hemmerdinger said, “The buildings that face onto that park are white stucco, simplified interpretations of historic forms that will evoke a sense of familiarity and comfort. Other buildings not facing the park, the existing brick loft buildings from [early last century] will be restored.”

He said he hopes Atlas Park attracts the type of better specialty tenants found in Roosevelt Field Shopping Center in Garden City, Long Island, and consumers who have been in the habit of shopping at Nassau County shopping malls, such as Roosevelt Field, rather than attracting those frequenting the kind of stores typically found on Steinway or Myrtle Streets in Queens.

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