NEW YORK — Target expects to open its first store in The Bronx in March 2004 and is ready to pounce on additional sites in the boroughs, but it won’t be easy.

Despite the obvious higher costs of expanding in the city and requirements for large spaces, Target has been scouting urban locations, including Harlem, but reportedly rejected a location there months ago. There’s also been speculation about Union Square and the West Side of Manhattan.

One possibility is that Kmart locations in the city could come available in light of the company’s bankruptcy, which would provide sufficient space for a full-fledged Target store. In Manhattan, Kmart operates on 34th Street and on Astor Place in Greenwich Village.

Another possibility is that Target adapts its format for smaller spaces. Big boxes are tough to find in urban areas.

Target Stores said its Bronx store will have 156,000 square feet and will be in Riverdale, on the Major Deegan Expressway (I-87) at 225th Street. The company also said the location would be accessible by bus and subway and will be part of the River Plaza retail development expected to open in March 2004.

"We have been expanding our presence in the New York area, and specifically seeking great locations within New York City," said John Griffith, senior vice president of Target Corp., in a statement Monday. "It takes a great location and unique circumstances for us to open a store in the city and the Riverdale location fits all of our needs."

Target requires a lot of space for its bigger footprint and for parking. TheBronx unit will be built on a 6-acre parcel of the nearly 20-acre River Plaza development, and will include a 3-acre rooftop parking deck with 600 parking spaces. A total of 900 spaces will be available for Target shoppers.

The store will employ approximately 250, and hiring will begin in early 2004.

Target has slowly infiltrated the city. Aside from operating stores in Queens at College Point and at the Queens Place shopping mall, and in Brooklyn at Gateway Center, its advertising has been all over the place. The Target "holiday boat" is docked at Chelsea Piers, and showcases about 90 items, but customerscan purchase any item from Target stores via on the boat. In addition, Target has donated more than $7 million to various projects and initiatives in New York City since 2000."I believe Target has looked at New York sites, most centered around the west side by Chelsea," said Jeffrey Paisner, senior managing director of The Lansco Corp. retail brokerage. "There are lots of problems there because of neighborhood opposition. It’s also difficult to find a floor plate sufficient in size there, and with an infrastructure for public transportation. In The Bronx, rents are more retail friendly."

Paisner said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Kmart space became available, and added, "These companies work on margins that make it hard to make a profit when you come up against operating costs in a Manhattan location."

A great location for Target would have been the former Bradlees spot in Union Square, where Forever 21 has done a deal on the ground floor, for probably more than 20,000 square feet, Paisner noted.

Elsewhere, "There’s a lot of potential development on the piers of the West Side, between 14th and around 30th Street, but that’s years away. There’s access to the West Side Highway, but not much public transportation."

Minneapolis-based Target Corp. operates 1,148 Targets around the country and is also the parent of the Marshall Field’s department store chain in the Midwest. Target was founded 40 years ago.

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