In 2005, Vornado Realty Trust announced plans to develop a 6.6-acre site into a mixed-use complex in Rego Park, Queens, adjacent to the already existing Rego Park Center shopping mall. The site is managed by Vornado, though it is owned by Alexander’s, Inc.
Tentatively named Rego Park Mall II, the development site is located at the intersection of Junction Boulevard and 62nd Drive next to the Long Island Expressway. Initial groundbreaking on the site began in October 2006, and actual construction began in May 2007. The mall is slated to be complete in 2009.
The plans for the site call for a mixed-use development, designed by Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn (EE & K) Architects. The complex will include several public spaces, promenades, 450 residential units in one residential tower, a multi-level parking structure, and a large shopping mall with several big-box national retailers.
Vornado announced that the new mall will be home to Kohl’s, Home Depot, and Century 21, increasing the considerable retail options, like Sears, Old Navy, and Bed Bath & Beyond, already available in the neighboring Rego Park Center. Supporters of the project expect the mall to bring 2,500 construction jobs and 1,400 new permanent employment positions. Initially, Vornado had hoped for a Wal-Mart to occupy some retail space. There was significant local opposition to this plan and Vornado decided not to explore it further.
Some residents and local representatives have opposed the Rego Park Mall II development, citing traffic and residential density concerns. City officials are working on adding traffic signals and increasing signage at the site’s intersection with the hopes of alleviating the traffic congestion that the mall will likely bring. Since the plan’s original inception, the development has been significantly scaled-down.
Despite the fact that construction is already underway, there is some concern that the developer will back away from building the residential units. In March 2008, Vornado suspended plans to build the residential tower in light of the weakening housing market, assuring the public that it remains committed to the future of the residential component. Vornado insists that the 3-story retail section will continue as planned.
However, in December 2008, Home Depot, an anchoring tenant in the proposed mall, walked away from its lease with Vornado, citing drops in expected profits as motivation. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that since November 2008, the space occupied in the neighboring Rego Park Center by Circuit City remains vacant, as the retail chain went bankrupt in 2008.