In the last issue of the Juniper Berry, we described the history of Atlas Terminals; now we are pleased to describe the owners' plans for the future.

The Shops at ATLAS Park, which open in early 2005, promises to provide the residents of Central Queens with something that has been missing — a “town center” in which civic and commercial life can unfold. ATLAS will offer terraces, landscaped parks, covered walkways and a collection of men's, women's and children's apparel, jewelry, shoes, fashion accessories, housewares, gourmet foods, programmed activities for children and adults, and a variety of cafes, bistros and restaurants.

This mixed-use project will also include office space for local businesses in the nine buildings that will surround the 2.3 acre landscaped park, as well as a day-care center that will be run by a local not-for-profit.

“We are thrilled that we will be able to welcome our neighbors into a completely transformed property,” said Damon Hemmerdinger, the project's development director and the great-grandson of the industrial park's founder. “Today, you need to go to Nassau County to enjoy the shopping and dining opportunities that will soon be available in the neighborhood.”

In fact, each Queens resident now has less than half of the national average of retail space available to most Americans.

“Although Queens residents get many goods and services locally, they very often leave the borough to spend their money — it is clear that there is “outflow” of dollars into the suburbs,” continued Hemmerdinger. “ATLAS will help keep dollars in Queens partly because its tenants will sell goods. In addition, and maybe more importantly, by providing a new option to Queens residents for shopping within the borough, and thereby gradually changing the perception that they need to leave the area to shop for certain goods, we believe that other retail areas of Queens will be strengthened.”

“I am glad that ATCO is redeveloping their site with a variety of uses that will bring jobs, goods and services into this community,” said Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall.

Senator Serphin R. Maltese added, “It is a pleasure to work together with truly enlightened community and business leaders who have sought our input and acted favorably upon our suggestions. They have indicated in the strongest terms that they will continue to cooperate to bring this world class development into our community so that our residents and neighbors are among the primary beneficiaries.”

The retailers will be a mix of national and local tenants. None will be so-called ìbig box tenants,î but instead the majority of tenants will occupy stores of 2,000 sf to 5,000 sf — comparable in size to neighborhood stores. Plans call for approximately 75 stores and restaurants comprising 275,000 square feet of space.

One feature of the project is a European-style marketplace. Six or seven specialty food merchants from the surrounding neighborhood selling everything from meats and fish to produce, bread, and pastries, offering area residents a chance to shop for dinner at these individual stores without trying to find a parking space for each shop. No particular merchants have been approached at this time.

“The project will provide an opportunity for many local, successful businesspeople to open a second location,” said Katherine Hemmerdinger-Goodman.

The project will also include 1,200 covered parking spaces, and 110,000 square feet of office spaces in new and renovated buildings as well as a 12,000 square-foot day care center that will be run by an established, community-based not-for-profit organization.

“I am excited about the retailers and restaurants that The Shops at Atlas Park will bring to our community,” said Queens Councilman Dennis Gallagher. “The Hemmerdingers and their colleagues have also been very open to hearing feedback from community leaders, and I appreciate that openness since the project is as-of-right.”

The developers' commitment to developing this as-of-right project in the best manner possible is evident from an examination of the quality of design that ties the whole project together.

“The buildings are modern interpretations of historic architecture,” said Theodore M. Amenta, a principal of A&Co., LLC, who designed the buildings. “We have looked to some of the best examples of commercial architecture from European cities, and drawn on them to create these forms. For example, the ceremonial-scale arcade that faces the park is drawn from a series of buildings in Paris.”

The buildings' facades will be made out of white stucco. “White is a traditional American color — we have used it in prominent buildings throughout our history to an extent that defines our physical fabric.”

The landscape architects are M. Paul Friedberg & Partners, a New York-based firm that has such celebrity projects to its name as the National Tennis Center in Flushing, the World Financial Center at Battery Park City, and Manhattan's Fordham Law School public space.

Rick Parisi, Principal at Friedberg's firm, explains: “There will be several different landscaped parks. The most significant is a 2.3-acre ellipse at the center of the project. The elliptical park will have a programmable fountain that can have different settings — active for children's play, or serene during a concert. The park also includes shade gardens for walking and sitting, and lawns for sunbathing or listening to concerts. The park was designed as a green interpretation of a European Piazza.”

“In addition, we have designed a pocket-park near the entrance to the project,” Parisi explains. “This area will provide a peaceful opportunity to meet for a cup of coffee under the shade of a tree.”

The landscaped areas will not simply be used passively. There will be programmed events, such as concerts and festivals, throughout the year.

“We have received such good input from our discussions around the community that we look forward to continuing them,” said Hemmerdinger. “In addition to comments on the design, we want to hear input about the kinds of stores that our neighbors want to shop at, and the kinds of events that they would attend.”

Atco plans an open house to introduce the community to plans for the project on January 14, 2003, from 4:00 to 8:00pm. The open house will take place in Building #15 at Atlas Terminals, 8000 Cooper Avenue. Parking is available on Cooper Avenue or after 5:00pm inside the Main Entrance of the property. Call (718) 326-3560 for details.