Shovels finally hit ground on Broadway Plaza

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After years of setbacks and delays, construction crews are beginning to build a shopping center on Broadway at West 230th Street. 

On Monday, Florida-based retail developer Equity One, Inc., held an official groundbreaking ceremony for Broadway Plaza with elected officials and community leaders.

What was a municipal parking lot will become a 133,000-square-foot shopping center, with a projected opening in fall 2013. Equity One is in negotiations with three tenants for the shopping center: sporting goods retailer Sports Authority, clothing store T.J. Maxx and grocery store Aldi, though no leases have been signed. 

Local elected officials — who have long been pushing the city to develop the land — were giddy on Monday morning.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. — described as a “true friend of the Economic Development Corporation,” by EDC Chief Operating Officer Zachary Smith — thanked Equity One for developing in the Bronx.

“Thank you for investing in this borough. Thank you for putting your money where your mouth is,” he said.

The mall is expected to create approximately 250 full- and part-time jobs, as well as 500 construction jobs.

The developer previously chosen by the city did not live up to its promises. More than five years ago, Ceruzzi Holdings planned to build a large shopping center with multiple stores and a movie theater. 

After years of back and forth with the city over the price of land, Ceruzzi agreed to pay $6.7 million to build a multi-store retail space. Rumors circulated the neighborhood that Kohl’s would become the anchor store, pleasing local politicians who saw the economic potential of a major department store. 

But Ceruzzi’s plan shrunk from a mall to a single supermarket and Councilman Oliver Koppell and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz urged the EDC to cut ties. 

Ceruzzi did not close on the deal by a June deadline in 2011, giving the city the opportunity to find a new developer.

After issuing a request for proposals in August 2011, the city chose Equity One, which specializes in metropolitan shopping centers. The company purchased the 80,000-square-foot-site for $7.5 million and plans to spend $54 million to build the two-story building. 

“This project is very important for the company,” said Jeffrey Olson, CEO of Equity One. “We believe that this neighborhood in particular, in Kingsbridge, that we can create development that not only helps fill a void in terms of shopping opportunity, but also creates significant economic development benefits in the process.”

Elected officials hope the site will be an anchor (like Target at River Plaza in Marble Hill or what they hope BJs will represent at West 237th Street’s Riverdale Crossing) and that together the three developments will create a retail “renaissance” along Broadway.

“It’s going to make a huge difference in our community,” Mr. Dinowitz said. “People like me, who really hate to go to Manhattan to Westchester, will have greater opportunities to shop right here in our own neighborhood.”

Rep. Eliot Engel said this is proof that the Bronx’s best days are not in the past, but rather the future.

And Mr. Koppell gushed, “I’m so delighted.”

Community Board 8’s chair Bob Fanuzzi said CB 8 put its heart and soul into this project and is proud to support it. 

The final speaker, head of the Bronx Overall Economic Development, Marlene Cintron, was brief.

“I’m going to stop talking because I want this construction to get done,” she said as construction workers stood next to their idling backhoes, ready to get to work.

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