New digital sign preview of development at Concourse Plaza

There’s a sign of life at the redeveloping Concourse Plaza —literally.

Local shoppers were greeted this spring with a new electronic sign sprouting from the E. 161th street complex’s entrance.

The splashy steel-paneled digital sign boasts movie listings and pricing specials —and is a preview of an expensive renovation that its developer says will bring a new look and new stores to the one of the borough’s larger shopping complexes by July.

Major facelift

“It’s a sign that we’re moving forward,” said Randy Briskin of the Feil Organization, which is currently negotiating leases at the 27-year-old mall. “It’s like looking at the early bulbs of spring. Soon the whole mall will blossom.”

Plans for renovation at Concourse Plaza have been in the works since 2012, when Feil began either ending or not renewing the leases of the existing businesses at the site.

Though some long-time tenants are staying —including the 10-movie theater and a massive Food Bazaar supermarket —the majority are now long gone, after a campaign petitioning the developer to let them stay fell short.

But Briskin said the facelift was much needed, and is confident that the community will be happy with the end result.

“When things get dated, we reinvest, not only in our shopping centers but also in the communities that we serve,” he said. “We felt it was time.”

The head of the local business coalition is also excited that this new digital sign is a sign of better times.

“This is the first sign that something new and good is here,” said Cary Goodman, executive director of the 161th street BID. “It’s a symbol that there is some hope for the area.”

Staying mum on shops

Briskin would not reveal which stores will be coming into the Plaza yet, but said that the scaffold barricading around the site should be removed and replaced by new tenants in June or July, if all goes according to plan.

Construction on the complex’s new façade facing 161th street, much of which will be built with the same stainless steel material on the new digital sign, kicked off April 7.

For now, the only completed part of the redevelopment is the digital sign —which replaces a hulking sign that used to list all 10 movies playing at the theater.

Sign: cool or not?

The new sign displays movie listings, prices, trailers, as well as special deals at the shops inside the Plaza.

Some locals polled near the new sign on a recent afternoon praised its snazziness.

“It’s modern, definitely better than the old one,” said 19-year-old Ontario Solomon.

Tysha Rogers, who was sitting next to Solomon in the mall’s parking lot, said she missed the old sign because it allowed her to see what movies were playing in one glance.

“My first reaction was why do we need that?” said Rogers. “I liked the old sign because you could see what movies are playing from far away.”

Reach Reporter Ben Kochman at (718) 742–3394. E-mail him at bkochman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @benkochman.

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