Community leaders and business owners hold a variety of different opinions about a proposed shopping center.
Preliminary plans for Baychester Square, slated for East Gun Hill Road along I-95 and across from Home Depot, Bay Plaza and The Mall at Bay Plaza, call for an outdoor mall with the equivalent of five blocks of shopping and a senior housing building with 170 units, according to one of the developers.
The project, which greatly exceeds the parcel’s current zoning, will need to go through a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which is expected to begin in 2017 and then go before Community Board 12 some time this year.
The operator of the Mall at Bay Plaza, Prestige Properties, opposes the development, stated company spokesman Hank Sheinkopf in an email.
The spokesman wrote that the proposed 400,000-plus square foot retail destination “would severely impact the community’s already difficult local area traffic, increase air and noise pollution and threaten the businesses and jobs at The Mall at Bay Plaza and Bay Plaza.”
The Mall at Bay Plaza is supporting Speak Up for a Better Bronx, an effort focused on raising awareness and activism in opposition to the current scope of Baychester Square, stated Sheinkopf.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is selling the property to Gotham Properties Group and Grid Development Partners because of its potential for substantial retail development, said Drew Greenwald of Grid.
“This was identified as one of those assets where you could have significant commercial development that could bring a lot of revenue to the MTA, not withstanding all of the revenue which would come to the city through sales taxes,” said Greenwald.
The new development would complement Bay Plaza because Baychester Square is not targeting the same tenants and would offer a different kind of shopping experience, he added.
He believes that sales will go up in the entire area around Baychester Square with the creation of the new retail destination which includes almost two acres of outdoor space and two levels of stores, he said.
All indications are that CB 12 could support the project, based on statements from its district manager George Torres and Karl Stricker, Land Use Committee chairman.
Torres said the board is waiting to see the full scope of what is proposed and its effects on traffic, and that it plans to listen to concerns of neighboring community boards 10 and 11, both of which border the site.
But he added that based on his experiences, retail options in the borough need to be expanded.
“We want to see stores in there that are not anyplace else…in the area,” said Stricker, adding more shopping options are needed and that “the Bronx is the most under-stored borough.”
Both Joe McManus, Land Use Committee chairman of CB 11 and Martin Prince, chairman of CB 10, expressed concerns about the traffic.
“The ULURP should be out in January,” said Prince, adding that CB 10 has written to NYC Department of City Planning asking that the neighboring boards have input in the ULURP process.
“The Bay Plaza Mall has brought in a significant amount of traffic and putting a new mall across the highway would increase it exponentially,” he said.