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NEW YORK CITY-The first store in Related Cos.’ Gateway Center at Bronx Terminal Market, a 115,000-square-foot Home Depot, opened Thursday at a ceremony officiated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Described as the city’s largest retail development in decades, the $500-million complex will draw from a market area of 1.4 million borough residents frequently described as underserved.

Acknowledging that the one-million-square-foot development in the South Bronx is opening its doors amid a recession, Glenn Goldstein, president of Related Retail, tells GlobeSt.com, “Obviously, the overall market is a challenge. But the Bronx and northern Manhattan are so under-retailed, and we’ve been very fortunate with the retailer interest that we’ve had. To date, we’re 90% leased, which is just about where we had always hoped we would be at this point.”

Following Thursday’s opening of Home Depot, one of five US locations the home improvement giant is opening this year, Goldstein says, “Everyone will be open for back-to-school season in September. But between now and then, there will be staggered openings.”

Specifically, he says, “Staples will open in June, Target and some of the smaller restaurants will be opening in July and BJ’s Wholesale Club will open at the end of July or early August. Best Buy will be opening in August as well, along with Toys R Us and Babies R Us. In September, the rest of the larger tenants will be open, including Marshall’s and Raymour & Flanigan.” Goldstein adds that smaller, street-front retailers will be opening during this rollout, including AT&T Wireless and PayLess Shoes. A waterfront esplanade along the Harlem River is scheduled to open this fall.

The tenant mix of Gateway Center is heavy on value-oriented retailers and “given the lack of competition in the trade market, they should do very well,” Goldstein says. “This will be the first wholesale club in the entire borough of the Bronx. It’s hard to picture an area with such population density anywhere else in the country that doesn’t have a single wholesale club.” Thanks to a plenitude of mass transit serving the area, Goldstein predicts the new complex will draw shoppers from northern Manhattan as well.

In a release, Bloomberg calls the Home Depot opening “another great milestone in the ongoing renaissance of the South Bronx,” following the opening of the new Yankee Stadium earlier this month. The Bronx Terminal Market on Exterior Street dates from 1920, and at one time was one of the largest Hispanic food wholesale operations in the country with more than 100 tenants and 1,000 employees. Over the years, its tenancy declined to fewer than 30.

In 2004, Related entered into an agreement with the Bloomberg administration and the New York City Economic Development Corp. to redevelop the property with a mix of newly-constructed buildings, a 2,600 spot parking garage located within one of the original structures and a nine-acre public park along the Harlem River. Construction began in 2006.

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