While Bronx retail proliferates, “living wage” requests still hold back Kingsbridge Armory

From left: The Kingsbridge Armory, a rendering of the mall at Bay Plaza and the Stella D’Oro factory

While three massive retail projects are pushing forward elsewhere in the Bronx, residents in the Kingsbridge neighborhood are dismayed by the lack of progress at a retail development site of their own. But according to Crain’s they need to look no further than “living wage” bill protests to explain the lack of development at the Kingsbridge Armory complex.

Two years ago the Related Companies had wanted to develop a shopping mall at the five-acre site with a large public subsidy, and promised 1,000 construction and 1,200 permanent jobs. But community opponents demanded that tenants of the taxpayer-funded mall pay their staff at least $10 per hour. Related balked.

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Prestige Properties faced no such opposition at its planned 780,000-square-foot mall at Bay Plaza, where Macy’s signed on as an anchor tenant last month. Similarly, protesters were silent for when a shopping center anchored by BJ’s Wholesale Club was unveiled in August by Angelo Gordon & Co. and Metropolitan Realty Associates at the old Stella D’Oro factory on West 237th Street. Both projects are relying on tax breaks, Crain’s said. Meanwhile, with strong local support, the city has issued a request for proposals to develop a vacant site on Broadway and West 230th Street.

Unemployment sits at about 12 percent in the Bronx, and nearby community leaders say merchants have approached them believing they could be successful at the Kingsbridge Armory site.

But the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corp. is steadfast in its desire for full-time, well-paying jobs. In fact, it is pushing to pass a “living wage” law through City Council. At the Kingsbridge Armory, it believes the three other projects have spurred interest in Bronx retail and is urging the city to issue a new request for proposals for the site — with “living wage” promises. [Crain’s]