BP OKs Baychester Sq., next stop City Council

BP OKs Baychester Sq., next stop City Council
A former golf facility on Gun Hill Road is the planned site for Baychester Square.
Arthur Cusano

A proposed outdoor shopping center at the site of a former 12-acre golf facility on Gun Hill Road is getting closer to becoming a reality as the project will go before city officials later this month.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. threw his support behind the Baychester Square project following a public hearing at his office held Tuesday, April 4.

The Uniformed Land Use Review Procedure is now before the NYC Planning Commission, and the City Council will likely vote on it in the coming weeks.

“The applicant offered what I believe to be a forward-thinking perspective on how to integrate a retail complex into an urban community,” Diaz wrote in his recommendation.

Diaz added two required modifications to the project: a deed restriction to keep the project from being developed as an outlet mall and the creation of additional MTA bus routes for the complex and proposed senior living center that would not adversely impact bus service to nearby Bay Plaza and Co-op City.

Community Board 12 members voted overwhelmingly to support the project following a public hearing on Thursday, March 23.

CB 12 vice chairman and Land Use Committee chairman Karl Stricker said the board was pleased with the modifications by Diaz that were originally recommended by his board.

He said the board was confident work would begin early next year.

Stricker said the board believed the project would bring jobs to the northeast Bronx area and has asked the city to request residents have first crack at those jobs.

He said the layout, as well as the shopping and dining options, would hopefully be unique to the area, and that the developer was looking for stores and eateries not yet available to the Bronx consumer.

“We’re not looking for another Old Navy or Express or H&M,” Stricker said. “It will be like walking down the main street of a small town, and that’s why we don’t want an outlet center there.”

Grid Properties principal Drew Greenwald said the the Planning Commission would vote on the project later in the month before it goes before the council.

The project is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, June 21.

Grid accepted the borough president’s modifications Greenwald said, and insisted there were never any plans to make the development an outlet center.

Grid is committed to working with the community and community board and elected officials to improve transit to that area, he said.

“(The borough) is not completely served, and mass transit is a great thing, and doing it right is an even better thing,” Greenwald said.

Diaz does not believe that the new shopping center would draw business and jobs away from the Bay Plaza and its mall, which are located directly across I-95

Prestige Properties, which owns Bay Plaza, has been a vocal opponent of the Gun Hill Road shopping center.

Spokesman for Prestige Properties Frank Scheinkopf said the project will hurt business at the Bay Plaza and its adjacent mall and cause employees to lose their jobs.

”In today’s retail market conditions, putting another large retail property next door to the successful Bay Plaza/Mall – which even with its success has over 200,000 square feet of current vacancy – could put 5,000 Bronx jobs at risk,” he said. “The City Council shouldn’t take that risk.”

Councilman Andy King has voiced similar concerns that the proposed shopping center would hurt the existing shopping center, and said he still wanted to see changes made.

“At this stage, I’m not understanding how developing such a large space [for retail] adds to the neighborhood, especially when we already have a large retail space still in search of tenants,” King said.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 742–4584. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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