Saturday, January 29, 2011

Locals Concerned About Shops at Atlas Park Future with Center Set for Auction by Nicholas Hirshon - NY Daily News

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The Shops at Atlas Park have been run by a court-appointed receiver for two years

A foreclosed Queens mall is set to be auctioned Friday, marking a turning point for the embattled Shops at Atlas Park as locals wonder how a new owner will operate its mix of stores and eateries.
The Glendale complex, which has been run by a court-appointed receiver for two years, will go up for bids at the 11 a.m. sale at Queens Supreme Court.
At stake is the future of Atlas Park, an outdoor shopping center with a movie theater, a Borders bookstore and chain restaurants. Many of the mall's smaller businesses have slumped through recent years.
Insiders said it's hard to predict the sale's outcome.
"It's either going to be anti-climactic or you're going to have four bidders going hot and heavy on this thing," said lawyer Dennis Cappello, appointed by the court to run the sale.
The banks that mortgaged the mall, Credit Agricole and Société Générale, hope to snare at least $119 million - about the amount of the loan to the mall's founders, Atlas Park LLC.
Among the parties rumored to be in the mix for the auction are Cypress Equities, once affiliated with football legend Roger Staubach, and the mall founders, the family of ex-MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger.
Cypress has denied interest in bidding. Hemmerdinger's son, Damon, once the mall's development director, declined comment.
Locals figured a national mall operator could also swoop in.
The powerhouse Chicago firm McCaffery Interests, once considered a frontrunner to land Atlas Park, dropped out last fall.
But the bidding war may not play out. The auction will be postponed if Atlas Park LLC files for bankruptcy before the sale. Sources said that scenario is unlikely.
Cappello said the banks had not decided as of yesterday morning on an "upset price," or the minimum amount at which the mall can be sold.
If the banks set an upset price and no bidder goes that high, the mall becomes bank property.
In that case, the banks would probably seek to sell the property as soon as possible rather than manage the mall, sources said.
An attorney for the banks declined comment.
Questions linger about the mall's direction under a new owner, who might decide to shift its focus from upscale to more affordable stores - or even raze the place for an entirely new project.
Residents are counting on the sale to end a tumultuous period for the Cooper Ave. center.
"We need to move forward," said Kathy Masi of the Glendale Civic Association.