Expects several tenants to offer variety of retail opportunities
RIPCO Real Estate Vice Chairperson and Principal Gene Spiegelman, in a conversation with this paper on Wednesday, detailed the ins and outs of his company’s plan to lease the Bay Ridge sites of the former Century 21 Department Store, the former TJ Maxx store, and a 290-car, multiple level parking garage.
The buildings are still owned by Gindi family. However, RIPCO will be working to lease the space.
“Century 21 stores ran a hugely successful business there, and it was part of the fabric of the community,” Spiegelman said. “Unfortunately, they were the victims of the worst of COVID. It took the business down.”
While shoppers have recently been frustrated by a shortage of options in the neighborhood, Spiegelman said the process is time-consuming and complicated.
“There are mixed buildings there and the majority of it was owned by the Gindi family, several of the buildings were not,” he said. “They were under long-term leases, and what they successfully did was acquire several of the buildings so they could control the whole parcel.”
The former Century 21 Department Store is located at 464 86th St.; the former TJ Maxx store is at 502 86th St.; the Century 21 annex building is at 437 87th St. and the parking garage is at 415 88th St.
In addition to other complications, the buildings are considered to be older, a drawback in today’s real estate market.
“We’ve spent the last year figuring this whole thing out,” Spiegelman said. “That’s why we are finally announcing we are bringing it to market. We didn’t even have signs on the building because we had so much to deal with and so many pieces to this that we needed to understand.”
However, Spiegelman said shoppers can expect something fresh in the not-too-distant future to replace the department store.
“The street has always been a great one,” he said. “It will always be a great street, and out of the ashes something great is going to rise. It’s going to be fresh, new, modern retailing to replace what Century 21 was bringing to the community.”
One of the more interesting aspects of the new tenants will be their diverse offerings.
“There will be multiple tenants,” he said. “It’s going to be a mix of things, I think it’s going to add a lot to the neighborhood, and it’s going to bring the shoppers back and give them options.”
With a lot of real estate to work with, the parking lot building on 88th Street will ultimately be leased separately from the other buildings.
The plan for the Century 21 building is to make it 100 percent retail. The former TJ Maxx store, now occupied in part by Citibank, is envisioned as a mix of retail on the ground floor and community service use, such as a possible health care education center, on the upper floors.
It’s been a long process, but RIPCO hopes to form a plan soon as several prospects have shown interest in the space. By the end of 2022, they expect to have commitments and tenants sorted out.
“I think the first half of this year, we hope to make announcements that we have committed tenants, timelines,” Spiegelman said.
Nothing is expected to open in the buildings this year, however.
The Gindi family, which owns Century 21, tried to bring the stores back, but complications arose due to the pandemic because their primary business was in lower Manhattan, an area that hasn’t recovered yet.
“The office workers aren’t back, the tourists aren’t back, so much of their business relied upon that,” Spiegelman said. “They had distribution channels, 3,000 employees, branding, design and merchandise. It’s not that easy to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”
The family continues to try and figure out how to use their brand in the future, he said.
UPDATE: The headline and article have been updated to clarify that the building is not for sale and is still owned by Gindi family. However, RIPCO will be working to lease the space.