Local merchants cast wary eye on growing Throggs Neck Shopping Center

If you build it, they will come.

That seems to be the mantra for the new Throggs Neck Shopping Center currently rising in Ferry Point.

While merchants in nearby Throggs Neck are casting a fearful eye on potential competition, local and national retailers have committed to fill 75% of the center, its co-developer announced.

Petco and Famous Footwear are the latest to commit, joining anchor stores Target and TJ Maxx, as well as Applebee’s and Metro Optics.

“National tenants, as well as the best local retailers, have been eager to open their doors here, and we’re rapidly filling the remaining space,” said Joseph Simone, president of Simone Development, which is developing the site with Aaron Malinsky and Paul Slayton.

Anchored by a Target department store – the retailer’s third Bronx outlet – the shopping center is scheduled to open in early 2014, with 285,000-square feet of stores and restaurants on two levels and covered and uncovered parking for 900 cars.

Several other major tenants joined the roster within the last month.

TJ Maxx will serve as a junior anchor for the development.

Applebee’s, with five other restaurants now serving the Bronx, has signed a 6,640 square foot lease seating about 250 guests. .

“We love The Bronx, the people, the attitude, the environment and, are thrilled to be participating in this new retail development,” said Zane Tankel, CEO of Apple-Metro, Inc., NY metro area Applebee’s franchisee.

Tankel said the restaurant will hire about 200 local residents to open the location.

MetroOptics Eyewear will open their fourth Bronx location, adding to their existing ones at Westchester Square, Parkchester and Hunts Point.

Once completed, the developers envision up to 30 local and national retailers joining the anchor and junior anchor tenants.

Fearful that many of those retailers may drive local customers away from its mom and pop shops and local restaurants, former state Assemblyman Steve Kaufman, now head of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association, has been pushing to establish a local Business Improvement District to promote local merchants.

“People need to remember that East Tremont Avenue is their neighborhood, and they want to support the well-being of the merchants there. They don’t want to see gates on closed stores,” said Kaufman.

“Also, it’s the merchants who donate money for Christmas lights and other seasonal events,” he added, “that make our neighborhood feel like a community.

Besides the Target mall as potential competition, the Whitestone Cinemas are expected to become an outlet-style mall, while Bay Plaza at Co-op City will soon add an indoor mall anchored by Macys.

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