When the Metro Mall was built back in the early 1970s, it was known as “Rentar Plaza” and considered a state-of-the-art facility for receiving goods. That was when big department stores were in their heyday. Today, that retail model has fallen out of favor, and the mall’s owners are having a hard time attracting tenants to fill the giant spaces previously occupied by Kmart and Toys R Us.
A request has now been made to the City Department of Transportation to add a curb cut and loading dock along Metropolitan Avenue. The mall owner is seeking to change the layout of their building in order to subdivide the stores. This would provide the resulting smaller stores with access to their own dock, instead of forcing them to use the centralized system in place now, which would be logistically difficult. The plan calls for removing a grove of trees on the property along Metropolitan Avenue between the traffic light near the M train station and the mall’s main entrance. Specifically, the 30-foot wide dock would be located 125 feet from the exit of the parking lot to the east.
This brought into question the safety of pedestrians and motorists. Based on their original proposed configuration, the trucks would have had to back into the dock area, shifting across several lanes of traffic traveling in both directions in the process. The proposed dock is in close proximity to a busy intersection and bus stop. Community Board 5 heard the proposal in January and rejected it, asking for the owners to return to CB5’s Zoning and Land Use Committee with more information.
Rentar went back to the drawing board and came up with a revision to their plan. The latest proposal has the truck entrance still along Metropolitan Avenue. The difference is that a below-grade entrance will be created with a retaining wall so that the trucks will be able to back in without blocking traffic lanes, which is expected to better protect pedestrians and motorists. CB5 voted in favor of the revised plan on February 13 but it needs final approval from DOT.