Developer of Broadway property rethinking its involvement

Ceruzzi Properties has chosen to renegotiate its city contract to build a shopping mall at W. 230th Street and Broadway.

Ceruzzi Properties, the Connecticut-based developer picked to build a shopping mall at W. 230th Street and Broadway, on the border of Marble Hill and Kingsbridge, is rethinking its involvement.

Councilman Oliver Koppell, who has pushed for the construction of a shopping mall since 2001, appeared disappointed on Tuesday, July 14 when he relayed the news to residents of the northwest Bronx.

“I gather that Ceruzzi is trying to negotiate its contract,” Koppell said. “I heard a week ago. I feel badly about it. I think Ceruzzi should be held to its contract.”

Koppell and the City Council approved Ceruzzi’s shopping mall plan in March. The developer is set to acquire and build on a city-owned parking lot. The plan has seen a handful of revisions. Ceruzzi initially proposed a multiplex movie theater and a health club. The current plan, at 166,000 square feet, consists of a large anchor store and a smaller retail outlet.

Failed property negotiations and a high water table have led to delays. An environmental assessment revealed water near the surface of the parking lot; Ceruzzi failed to acquire a pair of adjacent private lots. In 2008, Koppell predicted that construction would begin in 2010. Now the tough economic climate has thrown a wrench into the plan. The plan entered public review in August 2008, before Wall Street crashed.

“The developer is reassessing the project and moving forward with negotiations with EDC,” said Janel Patterson, spokeswoman for the city’s Economic Development Corporation. “It is not EDC’s policy to discuss ongoing negotiations.”

Community Board 8 approved the shopping mall, known to some as Broadway Plaza, in 2008, provided that Ceruzzi adhere to a list of neighborhood-minded conditions: ongoing tenant, parking and traffic updates plus targeted hiring of CB8 residents.

CB8 land use chair Charles Moerdler wanted to help Ceruzzi identity suitable tenants; the developer refused. Moerdler wasn’t surprised to hear about the renegotiation. The city attached no obligations to the shopping mall plan, he said. If Ceruzzi decides to pull out, it won’t be punished.

“The city, in my view, struck a stupid deal,” Moerdler said.

Koppell and Moerdler hope that the EDC will stand tall and put the shopping mall out to bid again if Ceruzzi asks for the moon. Ceruzzi wasn’t available for comment.

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